Author Topic: Why Vyasacharya has chosen Brahman and not prakR^iti as the material cause  (Read 503 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Why Vyasacharya has chosen Brahman and not prakR^iti  as the material cause

      The suutra 2 provides the definition of Brahman primarily as the upaadaana kaaraNam or the material cause of the universe. In upanishhads the Brahman is often said to be the material cause of the universe. But at times we find maayaa or prakR^iti was presented as the material cause of the universe. maayaa.n tu prakR^itim viddhi maayinaa.n tu maheswaram - swetasvatara upanishhad - maaya is the prakR^iti, which is the material cause. In the Mahanarayana Upanishad there is a famous sloka (12-5) that says:

      ajaam ekaa.n lohita shukla-kR^ishhNaaM bahvii.n prajaa.n janayantii saruupaam.h |
      ajo hyeko jushhaamaaNo.anusheto jahaatyenaa.n bhuktabhogaamajo.anyaH ||
      This mantra is going to be elaborately analyzed later - for the time being it will suffice to know that it describes maayaa (unborn female) endowed with sattva, rajas and tamo guNa -s as the material cause. It is associated with two types of jiiva -s - one, the unrealized souls who are fascinated by her and are attached to her, and two, the realized souls who, having enjoyed her, reject her by getting detached from her. In Bhaagavat Giita (13-19) says:

      prakR^itiM purusham chaiva viddhyanaadii ubhaavapi |
      vikaaraa.nshcha guNaa.nshchaiva viddhi prakR^itisambhavaan.h ||
      prakR^iti and purushha are the two beginningless principles and the creation has come out of prakR^iti.

      Thus sometimes the upanishhads say Brahman is the material cause and sometimes the prakR^iti as the material cause. Now of the two which is really the material cause. There is a big difference if one says Brahman or purushha is the material cause then the chetana vastu or conscious entity is pointed out as the cause. But if prakR^iti is the cause then it is achetana vastu or inert entity is pointed as the cause. Question boils down to ' chetanam kaaraNam vaa achetanam kaaraNam vaa ". Here Vyasacharya has chosen Brahman as the material cause and does not mention about the prakR^iti. This choice of Vyasacharya has got lot of significance. Because of this aspect only this suutra has a great significance.

      We will present here few arguments why Vyasacharya chose chetana brahman as the material cause for the world.

      Vyasacharya wants to clearly distinguish Vedantic teaching from Sankhya philosophy. Emphasis of the distinction between the two was felt important for (a) Sankhya was prevalent at that time and (b) many of the words are common between the two philosophies. In Sankhya philosophy they use the word ' purushhaH ' meaning chaitanya aatma or conscious self. In vedanta also the word purushha is used extensively. Gita 13-19 the example above uses the word ' purushha '.

      In kaThopanishhad also - ' avyaktaat tu paraH purushhaH purushaanna param ki.nchit ' - The word prakRAriti is also used in Sankhya and Vedanta as triguNaatmika achetana vastu, unconscious matter has three guNa -s. More than that the very word Sankhya is used to indicate Vedantic teaching. In Bhagavatam the Sankhya teaching is given by Kapila who is incarnate of the Lord Vishnu to his mother, Devabhuti. Sankhya philosophy is also expounded by Kapila who is different from Bhagavatam Kapila and this Sankhya philosophy is different from Vedanta. To provide distinction between the two, Vyasacharya chose the particular suutra. Sankhya philosophy says achetana prakR^iti is the material cause of the universe. Vyasacharya uses this as a key suutra to differentiate Vedanta from Sankhya philosophy by stating clearly that chetana brahman is the material cause of the universe.

      In all the systems of philosophy the fundamental question is about the material cause of the universe. From where did the universe come?

      Even science is trying to address this issue either in terms of the Unified Principle or some Big Bang Theory. Almost all philosophies arrived at achetana tattvam as the basic material cause for the universe. For example, for Sankhya and Yoga philosophies, achetana prakR^iti is the basic material cause. Nyaaya and Vaisheshika claim that atoms or paramaaNu as the basic material cause. They are called paramaaNu vaadaH, may be close to modern science. paramaaNu -s join together under appropriate conditions to form grosser and grosser matter leading to the formation of jagat or the universe. paramaaNu-s are also achetanam and hence their theory also falls under achetana kaaraNa vaadaH. Even the naastika systems of philosophies they subscribe to achetana kaaraNa vaada each with different names; pa~ncha skandha -s in Buddhism, astikaaya -s in Jainism etc. Modern science also assumes matter (or energy) alone is fundamental, no life at the time of Big Bang - particles or sub-atomic particles agglomerate to form bigger molecules and life (conscious entity) originated more recently out of matter that too accidentally when the conditions became conducive for it. Thus in most of the philosophies, consciousness is either existing parallel to the matter, or a product of matter. Even the Vedic philosophies such as - vishishhTaadvaita and dwaita subscribe to the theory that achetana and chetana padaartham existing parallel but independent of each other eternally.

      Interestingly in nyaaya vaisheshhika philosophies even aatmaa is considered as one of the nine types of matter. Consciousness is a property of aatmaa. Hence in principle almost all philosophies are achetana kaaraNa vaadaH, whereas advaita vedaanta stands out as the most unique philosophy which presents chetana kaaraNa vaadaH where the consciousness is the superior to matter as the primary cause or the universe of matter. (vishishhTadvaita and dvaita vedanta -s differ from advaita in the sense that they subscribe achetana tattva, prakR^iti, as the material cause while chetana tattva, iishwara, as the instrumental cause. iishwara being all pervading He pervades the acetana tattva as well as the chetana jiiva -s - jiiva satyam, jagat satyam and paramaatma satyam. The first two are not independent but depend on paramaatmaa who pervades both, yet remaining separate). Uniqueness of the advaita vedaanta is its chetana kaaraNa vaadaH, consciousness is the very essence of the universe. That means it is the very substratum or content of the universe and there is no matter other than chaitanyam. Hence the second suutra presents, Brahman, chetana swaruuupa as the material cause. Through this suutra Vyasacharya distinguishes Vedanta from all other systems of philosophies not only Sankhya but also Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Bouddha, Jaina, Charvaka, etc. as well as modern science etc.

      No doubt upanishhads point at some places Brahman as the material cause, at other places prakR^iti as the material cause. Vyasacharya as the basis for the very first chapter as samanvaya or consistency establishes starting with suutra 2 that upanishhads declare predominantly that Brahman is the material cause of the universe. This in fact may be considered as the essence of the first chapter of the Brahmasutras.

      The question then arises how can upanishhads teaching contradict itself by declaring at one side Brahman as the material cause and other places prakR^iti is the material cause. Actually there is no contradiction. According to upanishhads, prakR^iti does not exist independent of purusha (it is a-swatantram or para-tantram and not swa-tantram ). Since maayaa is non-separate from brahman, whatever is attributed to maayaa or prakR^iti can be attributed to Brahman also. (As noted before in the context of creation we are using Brahman and Iswara are synonymous). Technically we say in Vedanta, prakR^iti is the pariNaamii upadaana kaaraNam but brahman is vivarta upaadaana kaaraNam. The definition of vivarta upaadana kaaraNam is that which lends its existence to the pariNaama kaaraNam, parinaamii upaadaana kaaraNa adhishhTaanam vivarta upaadaanam. Likewise the definition of achetana vastu is anyaadhiina satvam and anyaadhiina prakaashhatvam tat jadam - whose existence and illumination depends on the other (conscious) entity. In contrast, the definition of chetana vastu is swayam prakaashhatvam or swayam chaitanyatvam, self-existent and self-conscious entity. Hence there is no self-contradiction in the upanishhads since prakR^iti does not exist separate from purushha. In contrast in Sankhya philosophy prakR^iti is independent of purushha. This is the basic difference between the two philosophies. In Vedanta purushha and prakR^iti are inseparable like ardhanaariishwara, half shiva and half paarvatii together as one, or like naarayaNa with lakshmii always carrying her on his chest). Since prakR^iti is a-swatantram or dependent in Vedanta, hence at places where prakR^iti is mentioned as the material cause upanishhads ultimately imply only that Brahman is the material cause.

      This aspect Vyasacharya emphasizes in this suutra by declaring that Brahman is indeed the material cause.

      5. In MunDaka and Chandogya one important topic is discussed and that relates to - eka vij~naanena sarva vij~naanam - by knowing one, one can know everything. This is possible because upaadaana kaaraNa vij~naanena sarva kaarya vij~naanam bhavati - by knowing one material cause all the products are known. This is because the products do not exist separate from its material cause just as bangle cannot exist separate from gold. And in the process, the upanishhads for gaining sarva vij~naanam teach the student the brahma j~naanam or the knowledge of Brahman. In Gita Krishna says:

      j~naanam te.aha.n savij~naanam idam vakshyaamyasheshhataH |
      yaj j~naatvaa neha bhuuyo.anyat j~naatavyam avashishhyate ||
      I am going to teach you (Aijuna) brahmaj~naanam completely. Knowing this there will be nothing else left for you to know.

      If suppose prakR^iti is the material cause then knowing prakR^iti, sarva vij~naanam will not come. But if Brahman is the material cause then knowing Brahman, sarvavij~naanam will come. Since the first one does not result in sarva vij~naanam, it follows that Brahman has to be the material cause knowing which everything should be known. (when naarayaNa comes lakshmii also comes with Him, but if one goes after only Lakshmi alone one gets ruined just as it happened to raavaNa ).

      Hence brahma j~naanena sarva vij~naanaM bhavati is essential truth discussed both in Mundaka and Chandogya. This is possible only if Brahman is the material cause of the universe. This is indirectly implied by Vyasacharya by the emphasis of Brahman as the material cause of the universe in this suutra.

      Hence the second suutra is a very significant suutra which presents the chetana kaaraNa vaadaH, which is the uniqueness of the vedaanta shaastram. It is not there in any of the aastika as well as naastika darshanam -s and is unique to Vedanta, particularly to Advaita Vedanta.

      With this discussion of the second suutra is over.