Short Essay on Evolution of the World



Prakrti evolves the world of objects when it comes into relation with the purusa. The evolution of the world has its starting-point in the contact (samyoga) between purusa or the self and prakrti or primal matter.

The contact (samyoga) between purusa and prakrti does not, however, mean any kind of ordinary conjunction like that between two finite material substances.

It is a sort of effective relation through which prakrti is influenced by the presence of purusa in the same way in which our body is sometimes moved by the presence of a thought.

There can be no evolution unless the two become somehow related to each other. The evolution of the world cannot be due to the self alone, for it is inactive; nor can it be due to matter (prakrti) alone, for it is non- intelligent.

The activity of prakrti must be guided by the intelligence of purusa, if there is to be any evolution of the world. It is only when purusa and prakrti co-operate that there is the creation of a world of objects.

But the question is: how can two such different and opposed principles like purusa and prakrti co-operate? What brings the one in contact with the other?

The answer given by the Sahkhya is this: just as a blind man and a lame man can co-operate in order to get out of a forest, so the non-intelligent prakrti and the inactive purusa combine and co­operate to serve their respective interests.

Prakrti requires the presence of purusa in order to be known or appreciated by someone (darsanartham), and purusa requires the help of prakrti in order to discriminate itself from the latter and thereby attain liberation (kaivalyartham).

With the contact between purusa and prakrti, there is a disturbance of the equilibrium in which the gunas were held before creation.

One of the gunas, namely, rajas, which is naturally icuve, is disturbed first, and then, through rajas, the other gunas begin to vibrate. This produces a tremendous commotion in the infinite bosom of prakrti and each of the gunas tries to preponderate over the rest.

There is a gradual differentiation and integration of the three gunas, and as a result of their combination in different proportions, the various objects of the world originate. The course of evolution is as follows.

The first product of the evolution of prakrti is mahat or buddhi.Considered in its cosmic aspect; it is the great germ of this vast world of objects and is accordingly called mahat or the great one.

In its psychological aspect, i.e. as present in individual beings, it is called buddhi or the intellect. The special functions of buddhi are ascertainment and decision.

It is by means of the intellect that the distinction between the subject and other objects is understood, and one makes decisions about things. Buddhi arises out of the preponderance of the element of sattva in prakrti.

It is the natural function of buddhi to manifest it and other things. In its pure (sattvika) condition, therefore, it has such attributes as virtue (dharma), knowledge (jnana), detachment (vairagya) and excellence (aisvaryya).

But when vitiated by tamas, it has such contrary attributes as vice (adharma), ignorance (ajfiana), attachment (asakti or avairagya) and imperfection (asakti or anaisvaryya).

Buddhi is different from purusa or the self which transcends all physical things and qualities. But it is the ground of all intellectual processes in all individual beings.

It stands nearest to the self and reflects the consciousness of the self in such a way as to become apparently conscious and tntelligent.

While the senses and the mind function for buddhi or the intellect, the latter functions directly for the self and enables it to discriminate between itself and prakrti Ahankara or the ego is the second product of prakrti, which arises directly out of mahat, the first mainfestation.

The function of ahankara is the feeling of 'I and mine' (abhimana). It is on account of ahankara that the self considers itself (wrongly indeed) being an agent or a cause of action, a desirer of and striver for ends, and an owner of properties.

We first perceive objects through the senses. Then the mind reflects on them and determines them specifically as of this or that kind.

Next there is an appropriation of those objects as belonging to and intended for me, and also a feeling of me as somehow concerned in them. Ahankara is just this sense of the self as 'I' (aham), and of objects as 'mine' (mama).

When ahankara thus determines our attitude towards the objects of the world, we proceed to act in different ways in relation to them.

The potter constructs a pot when he accepts it as one of his ends and resolves to attain it by saying within himself: 'Let me construct a pot'.

Ahankara is said to be of three kinds, according to the predominance of one or the other of the three gunas.

It is called vaikarika or sattvika when the element of sattva predominates in it, taijasa or rajasa when that of rajas predominates, and bhutadi or tamasa when tamas predominates.

From the first arise the eleven organs, namely, the five organs of perception (jnanendriya), the five organs of action (karmendriya), and the mind (manas).

From the third (i.e. tamasa ahankara) are derived the five subtle elements (tanmatras). The second (viz. rajasa) is concerned in both the first and the third, and supplies the energy needed for the change of sattva and tamas into their products.

The above order to development from ahankara is laid down in the Sankhya-karika and accepted by Vacaspati Misra. Vijnanabhiksu," however, gives a different order.

According to manas or the mind is the only sense which is pre-eminently sattvika or manifesting, and is, therefore, derived from sattvika ahahkara. The other ten organs are developed from rajasa ahahkara and the five subtle elements from the tamasa.

The five organs of perception (buddhindriya) are the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

These perceive respectively the physical qualities of colour, sound, smell, taste and touch, and are developed from ahahkara for the enjoyment of the self. It is the self desire to enjoy objects that creates both the objects of and the organs for enjoyment.

The organs of action (karmendriya) are located in the mouth, hands, feet, anus and the sex organ. These perform respectively the functions of speech prehension, movement, excretion and reproduction.

The real organs are not the perceptible external organs, like the eye­balls, ear-holes, skin, hands, feet, etc.

There are certain imperceptible powers (sakti) in these perceptible end-organs which apprehend physical objects and act on them, and are, therefore, to be regarded as the organs (indriyas) proper.

As such, an indriya cannot be sensed or perceived, but must be known by inference. The mind (manas) is the central organ which partakes of the nature of the organs of both knowledge and action.

Without the guidance of the manas neither of them can function in relation to their objects. The manas are a very subtle sense indeed, but it is made up of parts, and so can come into contact with several senses at the same time.

The mind, the ego and the intellect (manas, ahahkara and buddhi) are the three internal organs (antahkarana), while the senses of sight, hearing, etc. and the organs of action are called the external organs (bahyakarana).

The vital breaths or processes are the functions of the internal organs. The ten external organs condition the function of the internal ones.

The mind (manas) interprets the indeterminate sense-data supplied by the external organs into determinate perceptions; the ego owns the perceived objects as desirable ends of the self or dislikes them; and the intellect decides to act to attain or avoid those objects.

The three internal and the ten external organs are collectively called the thirteen karanas or organs in the Sahkhya philosophy. While the external organs are limited to present objects, the internal ones deal with the past, present and future.

The Sahkhya view of the manas and other organs has certain obvious differences from those of the other systems. According to the Nyaya-Vaisesikas, manas are an eternal atomic substance which has neither parts nor any simultaneous contact with many senses.

So we cannot have many experiences many perceptions, desires and volitions at the same time. For the Sahkhya, the manas is neither atomic nor eternal, but a composite product of prakrti, and so subject to origin and destruction in time.

It is also held by them that we may have many experiences sensation, perception, feeling and volition at the same time, although ordinarily our experiences come one after the other.

The Nyaya-Vaisesikas admit only the manas and the five external senses as indriyas and hold that the external senses are derived from the physical elements (mahabhuta).

The Sahkhya enumerate eleven indriyas, e.g. the manas, the five sensory organs and the five motor organs and derive them all from the ego (ahankara), which is not recognised as a separate principle by the other systems.

The Vedantins treat the five vital breaths (panca-prana) as independent principles, while the Sahkhya reduce them to the general functions of antahkarana.

The five tanmatras are the potential elements or generic essences of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. These are very subtle and cannot be ordinarily perceived.

We know them by gross physical elements arise from the tanmatras as follows:

(i) From the essence of sound (sabdatanmatra) is produced akasa with the quality of sound which is perceived by the ear.

(ii) From the essence of touch (sparsatanmatra) combined with that of sound, arises air with the attributes of sound and touch.

(iii) Out of the essence of colour (rupatanmatra) as mixed with those of sound and touch, there arises light or fire with the properties of sound, touch and colour.

(iv) From the essence of taste (rasatanmatra) combined with those of sound, touch and colour is produced the element of water with the qualities of sound, touch, colour and taste.

(v) The essence of smell (gandhatanmatra) combined with the other four gives rise to earth which has all the five qualities of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell.

The five physical elements of akasa, air, light, water and earth have respectively the specific properties of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell.

In the order in which they occur here, the succeeding element has the special qualities of the preceding ones added to its own, since their essences go on combining progressively.

The whole course of evolution from prakrti to the gross physical elements is distinguished into two stages, namely, the psychical (pratyayasarga or buddhisarga) and the physical (tanmatrasarga or bhautikasarga).

The first includes the developments of prakrti as buddhi, ahahkara and the eleven sense-motor organs. The second is constituted by the evolution of the five subtle physical essences (tanmatra), the gross elements (mahabhuta) and the products.

The tanmatras, being supersensible and unenjoyable to ordinary beings, are called avisesa, i.e., devoid of specific perceptible characters.

The physical elements and their products, being possessed of specific characters, pleasurable or painful or stupefying, are designated as visesa or the specific.

The vises as or specific objects are divided into three kinds, namely, the gross elements, the gross body born of parents (sthulasarira) and the subtle body (suksma or lihga sarira).

The gross body is composed of the five gross elements although some think that it is made of four elements or of only one element.

The subtle body is the combination of buddhi, ahankara, the eleven sense-motor organs and the five subtle elements (tanmatra).

The gross body is the support of the subtle body, in so far as the intellect (buddhi), the ego (ahankara) and the senses cannot funcdon without some physical basis.

According to Vacaspati there are only these two kinds of bodies as mendoned before. Vijhanabhiksu, however, thinks that there is a third kind of body called the adhistana body which supports the subtle one when it passes from one gross body into another.

The history of the evolved universe is a play of twenty-four principles, of which prakrti is the first, the five gross elements are the last, and the thirteen organs (karanas) and five tanmatras are the intermediate ones.

But it is not complete in itself, since it has a necessary reference to the world of selves as the witnesses and enjoyers thereof. It is not the dance of blind atoms, or the push and pull of mechanical forces which produce a world to no purpose.

On the other hand, it serves the most fundamental ends of the moral, or better, the spiritual, life. If the spirit be a reality, there must be proper adjustment between moral deserts and the joys and sorrows of life.

Again, the history of the world must be, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the progressive realisation of the life of spirit. In the Sahkhya, the evolution of prakrti into a world of objects makes it possible for spirits to enjoy or suffer according to their merits or demerits.

But the ultimate end of the evolution of prakrti is the freedom (mukti) of self. It is through a life of moral training in the evolved universe that the self realises its true nature.

What that nature is and how it can be realised, we shall consider presently. Now the evolution of prakrti in relation to the purusa may be represented by the following table.