Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
The Ego-principle (Ahamkara) as a Key Concept in the Samkhyakarika

The Ego-principle (Ahamkara) as a Key Concept in the Samkhyakarika

Ratings: (0)|Views: 32 |Likes:
Published by kartouk
"Classical India Philosophy Reinterpreted"
Article 3 :
The Ego-principle (Ahamkara) as a Key Concept in the Samkhyakarika
Michel Hulin
"Classical India Philosophy Reinterpreted"
Article 3 :
The Ego-principle (Ahamkara) as a Key Concept in the Samkhyakarika
Michel Hulin

More info:

Published by: kartouk on Oct 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

05/08/2013

pdf

text

original

 
3 
The
Ego-principle
(Aharhkara)
as
a Key Concept in the
Sarhkhyakarika*
Michel Hulin
Every time we try to understand a highly paradoxical systemlike Sarhkhya, that
is
apparently teeming with obscurities andcontradictions of aIl kinds, the temptation is great, almostirresistible, to ascribe its obvious inconsistencies
to
the externalcircumstances of its formation. Precisely in the case of Sarhkhya,
we
know aIl too weIl how intricate
and
even
Il
chao tic" ils"pre-history" may have been. Nethertheless, this type of purelyhistorical explanation runs the danger of reducing the doctrineto a hopeless mixture of
fundamentally heterogeneous
elements.
On the
other hand,
a strictly philosophicalinterpretation runs the opposite danger of dogmatically andarbitrarily reading into the text the interpreter's
own
views.However, there
is
perhaps a third
way:
that
is
trying to exhaustevery possibility of interpreting a system from inside, in termsof its own immanent logic,
and
only after that turning
to
theavailable historical data in order to somehow account for theremaining irreducible inconsistencies. That's the way we are
* 
Originally published as "Reinterpreting aharhkâra as a possibleway of solving the riddle of Sârhkhya metaphysics" in
Asiatische
Studien,
LIlI 3, 1999.
 
49
8
Classical
lndian
Philosophy
Reinterpreted
going to follow here while tackling the classical problem ofthe so-called ambiguity of
tattvas
in the
Samkhyakarika:
are they,all things considered, psychological or cosmic in themselves?
Our approach
is
ratherunorthodox and
may even
appear
exceedingly speculative at places, but it's a tentative one, thathas no claim whatsoever to final certainty. What 1 would liketo suggest
is
that classical 5âIhkhya should not be consideredas
"dead
stuff," a matter of mere scholarly knowledge,
but
that it still makes sense to draw some intellectual and spiritualinspiration from il.
ln
this context, 1 would like first to mention briefly theposition upheld by Rodney
J.
Parrot
(1986)
in his article "TheProblem of 5aIhkhya
tattvas."l
Focusing on
karikas
22
to
24
which describe the emergence first of
buddhi,
then of
ahamkara
out of it, and finally of the immediate products of
ahamkara,
he rightly points
out
the impossibility of interpreting thoseentities -"judgement"
and
"ego-feeling" in his translationeither as personal' or as cosmic. In the first
ca~e,
that wouldlead to some sort of subjective idealism, clearly incompatiblewill: the Samkhya conception of Nature
(prakrti)
as one.
In
thesecond case, we would have to assume some sort of cosmic ordivine
understanding and
ego-feeling encompassing the
multitude
of the individual ones. Now, this again appearsincompatible with the famous "atheism" of classical 5amkhya
(as
opposed to the so-called "epic 5amkhya" that
is
to be foundin the
Bhagavad-Gïtil
as weIl as in various
Parrot's own solution boils down to admit that from
k. 22
onwards (up to
k.
62)
reality is no more being described as itis in itseH but from the point of view of the bounded "spirit"
(puru$a)
who wrongly identifies himself
with
nature
and
itsevolutes. Only that false identification will give birth to the
1.
Journal
of
Indûm Philosophy,
14, 1986,
pp.
55-77.
The
Ego-principle
(Ahamkara)
human,
psychological
buddhi
and
ahamkara:
the
latter on esshould not be considered as genuine
tattvas,
like their cosmiccounterparts,
but
as mere phenomena, possessing only socalled "experiential" reality. In this way, the otherwise blatantcontradiction between the psychological and the cosmic aspectsof these
tattvas
is bound to completely vanish.Now, the trouble with Parrot's solution, on the one hand,is that the supposed shift of attitude from
k.
22
onwards isjust being read into the text, with no support either from the
karikas
themselves or from their commentaries. On the otherhand,
it
leads to the assumption of su ch strange entitiés as"cosmic knowing" for
buddhi
(not to confound with any kindof "cosmic intellect" inasmuch as there is still no person at
that
stage)
and
"cosmic I-maker" for
ahamkara.
As for the
corresponding
mental
organs
in men
and other
limitedcreatures, they would appear, along with their own functions,only "later," as the bound
puru$a
start identifying themselveswith those cosmic or suprapersonal
tattvas
in the way of
"1
amthe
buddhi
and
-
oddly
enough -
"1
am the I-maker." Wewould
caU
this explaining
obscurum
per
obscurius
or cutting theGordian knot instead of patiently trying to
undo
il.50, we are going to make an attempt to steer some middlecourse between a
purely
philosophical
and
dogmaticinterpretation and a
purely
historical one. In particular, weare going to suggest that that famous "ambiguity" should notbe explained away at every cost, as it
is
deeply rooted, in fact,in the very foundations of classical 5âIhkhya.First of
aH,
we have to question
that
aIl too
"natural"
opposition between subjectivity
and
objectivity.
Il
rests, ofcourse, on the fundamental duality of
puru$a
and
prakrti,
sothat our texts could in no way ignore or bypass il. However,the very context in which they introduce it sheds by itseH
 
51
50
Classical
lndian
Philosophy
Reinterpreted
sorne light on the scope
and
meaning of the duality within the Sarilkhya system. Actually, we
never
come across
any
direct 
justification of it.
It
is being rather presupposed as the foremost condition of possibility of
both
bhukti
(everyday experience) and
mukti
(final emancipation).2 Here, indeed, the
puru$a-prakrti 
polarity does
not
provide
any
real basis, because experience, as weIl as its cessation, requires sentient, individual beings, 
constantly related to
their
surroundings through organs
of perception
and
action. Now, organs
(indriya)
-
unlike mere
,
.
instruments -can be conceived only as the private property 
of
sorne
individual
living being who unequivocally distinguishes between "myself"
and "not
myself." 
Consequently, according to classical Sarilkhya, such splitting 
up
will take place not at the level of
buddhi
-
which is clearly working in co-operation with the
manas
and
the other
indriyas 
-but at the level of
ahamkllra.
The
buddhi,
in spite of its being the first evolute of
prakrti,
cannot really discharge its function before the appearance of
ahamkâra,
because, at this stage,
it
has
no
external world at its disposaI to connect the (moreover only potential) subject to il. Only
ahamkiira
provides the basisfor the subject-object relationship insofar as it gives birth (as
vaik(ta/bhatâdi)
to both the "subjective"
and
"objective" series
(manas-indriya
versus
tanmâtra-mahâbhüta).3
50,
in
a
way,
ahamkâra
must precede
buddhi.
The impossibility for
ahamkâra
to fit into the
buddhi-manas
indriya
sequence
follows from a
priori
as weil
as
from aposteriori arguments. On the one
hand, an
"intellect" makessense
only
as belonging to sorne
particular
person. Now, atthe very stage of creation, in which
buddhi
is supposed to come
to
light directly
out
of
pralerti,
there is
no
room, in the general
2. 
See, for
instance,
k.
21.
3. 
See
k.
24
;
tasm/id
dvividha~
pravartate
sarga~
et
k.
25.
The 
Ego-principle
(Ahamkâra)
frame of the system, for any kind of person,
human
or divine.
On
the other hand, a close examination of the special functionof
ahamkara,
called
abhimâna,
clearly shows its disparity fromthe specific functions of
manas
and
buddhi
(respectively
samkalpa
and
adhyavasaya).
On
the basis of its etymology
and
of its usein common parlance
abhimana
could
be
technically defined asan
unduly
extension
(abhi-)
of the I-notion to entities basically
foreign to
it
andbetter
designable
as
"that"
(tat).
At the
psychological level
it
means something like "high opinion ofoneself, self-conceit" (Monier-Williams).
Now,
k.
30
and
Hs
commentaries
de scribe the
way the
three internaI organs
are
co-operating to
produce
a reliableknowledge of the external world as weIl as adequate answersto the various challenges that may arise from il. The functionof
manas,
as
anorgan
of perception, consists in
bringing
together
(sam-kip)
the various sense-data (visual, auditory andso on). As an organ of action, it co-ordinates (again
sam-klp)
the operations of the specialized
karmendriyas:
speech,locomotion
and
so on. As for
the
buddhi,
it
may
also
be
considered as
an
organ of both knowledge
and
action,
but
ata higher level than
manas:
mental apprehension, ascertainment,
judgement,
resolution. Now,
it
seems
that there
is
no
real
room for
abhimana
in its
proper
meaning within the frame ofthat construction. This becomes evident from the commentariesof both Vacaspati Misra
and
Gauçiapada
4
on
that
part
of
k.
30
which deals with the
fi
successive"
(kramasas)
functioning ofthe
three
organs.
Vacaspati's commentary
runs
as follows:
" .
..
in dim light, a person has at first only a vague perceptionof a certain object; then, fixing his mind
(manas)
intently on
it,
he observes that it is a robber with his
drawn
bow
and
arrow
levelled at him,
th
en
follows the self-consciousness
4. 
Unfortunately enough, the relevant passage of the
Yuktidrpikil
ismissing.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->