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VEDIC, BUDDHIST AND JAIN TRADITIONS 

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English Translation of

"Paµcabh£tatattvanir£pa¸am"

 

The best of holy cities - this city of Pune, is well-known in the world. Offering my prostrations to the learned people well-versed in various ¿¡stras and assembled here, I would like to express my thoughts before them for their consideration on the chosen subject.

P¤thiv¢, ¡paÅ, tejaÅ, v¡yuÅ and ¡k¡¿aÅ are five mah¡bh£tas that constitute this universe. In the creation, continuation and destruction of this universe -  the above five mah¡bh£tas play a major role. These five bh£tas transform themselves into prapaµca by the desire of Ì¿vara and by that very same desire of God they continue to exist up to a particular period; by the very same sa´kalpa of God these bh£tas disappear. In this process the main cause is the desire of God. To give them the experience destined for them, according to the various deeds  (karmas) of all the jiv¡tm¡s (souls), God creates this universe.

Thus created, it stands for some time and again disappears. This process of creation, existence and dissolution is described in the ¿¡stras as the sport of Lord God. That is why this universe is called L¢l¡ Vibh£ti.

Apart from this universe, there is another part, which is not transformed like this universe. There is no change of any kind here. And this part is called Nitya Vibh£ti and stands all the time without any change. To attain this place is what is called mokÀa or Brahm¡nanda anubhava attainable by only those who have overvcome their pu¸ya and p¡pa. This fact is vouchsafed in the Vedas, UpaniÀads, Bhagavad-G¢t¡, ViÀ¸u Pur¡¸a etc. This is the philosophical position of vi¿iÀt¡dvaita of Bhagav¡n R¡m¡nuja. The followers of dvaita and advaita systems also explain this very same philosophy with little variations here and there. Though the advaita borders on the philosophy of Buddhism it is not vedab¡Åya, out of Vedic-fold, nor is it n¡stika.

 

Says MaharÀi Y¡jµavalkya -

This body made up of these five mah¡bh£tas due to karma, when disintegrated into the five bh£tas, where is the need for sorrow?.

How the mah¡bh£tas become instrumental in the formulation of this universe is described in detail in the Vedas. M£la Prak¤ti in its subtle state is called tamas; it transforms itself into mahat, aha´k¡ra etc. There are three states of M£la Prak¤ti called tamas, akÀara and avyakta all of which are very subtle. Even the other transformations following these four states, namely mahat, aha´k¡ra and tanm¡tras are also subtle and when they attain the state of vik¡sa they get the name bh£tas. As the seeds kept in a storage do not sprout, but when combined with water and mud, gradually sprout, in the same manner the non-transformed state of the seeds represents M£la Prak¤ti, because, when it attains vik¡sa it represents the sprout. This is how the universe takes shape. All the created things dissolve into their origin, the cause, and this can be seen in our daily experience.

Those who follow the tenets of the Buddhism or Jainism do not accept this process. They accept only the four visible mah¡bh£tas. They do not accept ¡k¡¿a which is not experienced by any sense-perception. Nor do they accept the principles like k¡la (Time), dik (Direction) and "¡tm¡ (Soul), because all these things are not experienced by the sense-perceptions, whereas in the case of other four bh£tas namely bh£mi, jala, v¡yu and agni, there is no dispute, as  experience cannot be denied. Thus, in the n¡stika system of philosophy the only disputable point is about ¡k¡¿a.

If the non-existence of ¡k¡¿a is established by arguments and syllogism, on the same analogy the other unseen tattvas like k¡la (Time) etc. can also be denied.

Dharmak¢rti a well-known and erudite Buddhist scholar, in his work called Pram¡¸a V¡rtika discussed this aspect. It has also been dealt with in an exhaustive manner in the commentaries on that work. Let us consider some of those points :

 

  1. There can be no destruction of an existence but only a transformation is  possible.

  2. When there is an absence of obstructing agent, then also that existence cannot be affected.

  3. If there is absence of one mah¡bh£ta, it means there is existence of another bh£ta in its place.

  4. Thus the absence of the other four mah¡bh£tas is to be construed as ¡k¡¿a and nothing  else.

  5. How come ¡k¡¿a  does not support a piece of stone thrown in the space?

  6. V¡yu which is moving all the time is not supported by ¡k¡¿a. Why is it so

  7. If the reply is that ¡k¡¿a does not obstruct the movement of the Air, this is not the answer. Since the non-obstruction of the Air's movement is due to the absence of the obstructing agency.

  8. Those who accept ¡k¡¿a say that it is all-pervasive and eternal. How is it that such a matter is not being supported by another? It comes to this that ¡k¡¿a does not need a support, but it is its own support that supports all the other things.

  9. In that case we may ask, "why accept ¡k¡¿a alone as having no other support? Why not accept this in the case of others too"?

  10. Direction (dik) is also all-pervading. Then why not accept this quality of ¡k¡¿a in direction itself?

  11. There are several principles which are all-prevading, like ¡tm¡, k¡la, v¡yu, dik etc. If these are all-pervading, how is it that all these do not become one?

  12. The likely answer to this question is that there is no obstructing agency and thus they all have their own existence in all places. Simply saying that there is no obstruction from ¡k¡¿a amounts to building castles in the air. Thus, we may conclude that the absence of the four mah¡bh£tas is ¡k¡¿a. Other than this, accepting a matter separately and calling it ¡k¡¿a is not real.

The above arguments of Dharmak¢rti are again discussed in detail in his other work called Ny¡ya Bindu. There are several annotations for Pram¡¸a V¡rtika, among which is the one called v¡rtik¡la´k¡ra by Prajµ¡kara Gupta. In this vy¡khy¡ the author recounts the arguments of those who accept ¡k¡¿a and gives counter-arguments very effectively.

When there is a wall in front, then the movement of objects is obstructed. These objects are not in a position to overcome the obstruction and go forward. But if there are no such obstructions then both living and non-living things move ahead. This is seen in experience. Therefore, the acceptance of ¡k¡¿a is supported by the reason of non-obstruction. All objects remain in the space provided by ¡k¡¿a and ¡k¡¿a does not obstruct their movements.

This argument is countered below. What is meant by the phrase 'providing spaces'? The answer is £nobstruction of existence". What is this existence? Is it being supported by something else or is it a non-hindrance? If it is meant as getting support from another source, then it is wrong. Because things like pots etc., are not supported by "¡k¡¿a but by the earth. If the answer is non-hindrance, that is also wrong, because it is due to the absence of an obstructing agency. Therefore, the statement that ¡k¡¿a does not obstruct the existence of other things is null and void. Therefore, ¡k¡¿a means the absence of the other four mah¡bh£tas such as p¤thiv¢, and there is no fifth matter called ¡k¡¿a.

The absence of obstructing agencies like walls makes movement possible, if there is an obstruction then it becomes impossible. Thus the wall is an obstructing agent of movement. This is called pratibandhaka. The absence of pratibandhaka is a general cause for all created things. This is accepted by all the philosophers. Therefore, construing an element as ¡k¡¿a and positing it as the giver of space has no basis. A person with eyes cannot see a thing which is obstructed by a wall or if the object  is at a long distance, or if it is very small in size. If the obstruction is removed, if the distance is decreased or if the size of the object is big enough, one can see it. In the perception of this object the cause is only the eye and nothing else. The wall and other things are obstructing agencies for perception. Therefore, the absence of the obstructing agency becomes a cause for all creations. No other cause may be construed in this regard. Therefore, acceptance of the fifth bh£ta, ¡k¡¿a on the basis of the argument that it provides space for all other things is untenable.

If ¡k¡¿a is providing space then where do the other mah¡bh£tas like v¡yu  stand, and where does ¡k¡¿a itself exist? If there is no need for a sixth mah¡bh£ta and  ¡k¡¿a is capable of providing space both for itself and for other bh£tas, then v¡yu also can be construed as of that quality.

For the question, "What is ¡k¡¿a" the answer given by Prajµ¡kara Gupta is this :

Ëk¡¿a means an opening or hole and this is made possible by the absence of some matter occupying space. If it is the absence of a matter which occupies space, then, where was ¡k¡¿a? One cannot  say that it tore away through the sides. In both cases of existence and non-existence of ¡k¡¿a, where the ¡k¡¿a did go cannot be answered. If it is said that ¡k¡¿a was destroyed, then well done of its  eternality! if it is said that all the time ¡k¡¿a  itself  was there, then absence of space and existence of ¡k¡¿a cannot go hand in hand. The existence and non-existence of a thing cannot exist simultaneoulsy.

Ì¿vara, ¡tm¡, ¡k¡¿a, dik, k¡la etc., are not existing things, because they do not create  or contribute in the creation of another thing visible, that is, absence of artha kriy¡. This is another reasoning. Earth causes burning, cooking etc., there is artha kriy¡. Kriy¡ means coming into existence of a new object. Non-happenings of these movements or non-agreement of same is called the absence of artha kriy¡. Wherever there is existence, one can see the coming into being of another object or transformation.

With the existing of a particular thing or its absence, if some knowledge is obtained by its absence, then that is called svalakÀa¸a. That is how Dharmak¢rti defines svalakÀa¸a in his Ny¡ya Bindu and by the absence of this so-called svalakÀa¸a he establishes the absence of ¡k¡¿a. There he cites the example of the horns of a hare: whether the hare's horns exist or not, there is no change in the knowledge. This is called tuccha. Non-existence, in the same manner, such as, whether ¡k¡¿a exists or not, indicates that no change occurs in the perception. Therefore, ¡k¡¿a does not exist. We experience differences in taste when there is more sugar or less, or salt or chillies in our food. This is what is called difference in perception. Known to all and sundry, this is also called svalakÀa¸a. If such definitions of svalakÀa¸a are known, only then the existence of an object can be accepted by all and without any controversy. In the case of the horns of a hare or ¡k¡¿a there is no such svalakÀa¸a and, therefore, there is no ¡k¡¿a.

The existence of a thing can be accepted only when there is artha kriy¡ and this is a correct proposition. Likewise, the existence of svalakÀa¸a also confirms the existence of a thing.  Ëk¡¿a does not possess either of the above two qualities as stated by the Buddhist. Only here the vaidikas differ. They say that both qualities do exist in ¡k¡¿a. Therefore, ¡k¡¿a is to be accepted as real and existing. But the difference is in the perception of laymen and thinkers. It cannot be convincingly proved to exist to the experience of laymen. Whereas for an analytical thinker, it can be proved. A thing that is obtained after climbing the hill cannot be called invisible before climbing. Both sides give all the possible reasonings, but the Buddhists use many false illustrations and syllogisms to attract the laymen.

Kum¡rila Bha¶¶a says this - the followers of Buddha all the time preach dharma but never without reasoning. According to the philosophy of the Bauddhas, all the things in their creation need definite causes but in their destruction they do not need any cause, because destruction is natural; not the creation. To teach this tenet to ordinary people they always use several examples. For example:

Taking a pebble from the ground they say that the pebble does not go up in the space by itself. If thrown up by us, up it goes. Therefore, the pebble's going up is dependent on some causes. In the same manner, the creations of all things depend on causes. But, once thrown up, the pebble does not stand in the space itself; it immediately comes down. What is the cause for this? There is nothing visible. Likewise, all created things without another agency, get destroyed naturally and by themselves.

In the example cited above, one can analyse how much reasoning is involved in it. Citing the example of a pebble's going up caused by an agency does not properly fit in for proving that all created things need an agency for their coming into being. Gullible people are led to believe anything by this sort of exposition. In the case of ¡k¡¿a also these logicians have adopted a similar method. The Vai¿e. S£tra - (2-1-71) tells us that in those cases where knowledge cannot be gained through pratyakÀa or anum¡na such subtle matters are to be known only by the authority of the Vedas: ÎÀi Ka¸¡da, who was content with only two pram¡¸as - pratyakÀa and anum¡na, takes recourse to Vedas in respect of all subtle matters as a source of knowledge. If that is the case with him, then what to say of people like us. This ÎÀi Ka¸¡da, after dislodging all the arguments of the opponents, establishes the existence of the fifth bh£ta, that is ¡k¡¿aÅ, with the hetu, ¿abda gu¸a in a long drawn discourse.

The quality which is grasped by the ears is called ¿abda. This ¿abda cannot  be inherent in v¢¸¡ or in bamboo. Therefore, there must be a substratum for this ¿abda  and the substratum is what is called ¡k¡¿a. By several resonings, he has discarded the other matters as the ¡¿raya (substratum) for the quality ¿abda. If sound resides in the v¢¸¡ itself, then people sitting at a distance cannot hear this sound, because v¢¸¡ does not travel from its place. Whereas if it is accepted that sound through the medium of v¢¸¡ was generated in ¡k¡¿a, which in turn generated a series of sound waves till it reached the ear-drum of the people sitting in various directions, it is quite logical. Therefore, in the existence of ¡k¡¿a, ¿abda is the deciding factor. Getting out and entering in are other factors to prove that ¡k¡¿a is the cause for space.

Movement needs space and this is given by ¡k¡¿a. This is how the S¡Ækhyas argue. ÎÀi Ka¸¡da has effectively countered their arguments on this point. Even Bauddhas reject this argument "giving space" as the deciding factor for proving the existence of ¡k¡¿a. Wherever there is a quality in a thing created, it is seen that quality comes into being from the corresponding causes already existing, namely the colour of the cloth is derived from the colour of the thread used for weaving the cloth. In the same manner if ¿abda is a gu¸a inherent in v¢¸¡ then that gu¸a should be shown to exist in the causal elements of the v¢¸¡ or its parts. It cannot be proved in this way. Therefore, ¿abda is not a gu¸a of p¤thiv¢ etc., but it must have its own substratum which is the fifth mah¡bh£ta the ¡k¡¿a.

There was another argument by the Bauddhas - the absence of an obstructing agency, and that was called ¡k¡¿a and not a separate bh£ta. Here, we can only say that Bauddhas are simply guided by their fanaticism and not by reasoning. Ordinary people can understand the absence of an obstruction like the wall. Simply with that much reasoning, they stop contented but accept or reject a substance like ¡k¡¿a which is very subtle and beyond the sense-perception; it is not sufficient. It needs sharp intellect and argumentative power but the ordinary people are not endowed with this quality and Bauddhas exploited this  situation to their advantage.

In the sixth chapter of the Ch¡ndogya UpaniÀad there is a dialogue between ávetaketu and Udd¡laka : "Bring the fruit of the p¢pal tree. Here, it is. Breaking the seeds, what  you see? Very small seeds. Break one of these small seeds. Again it is broken. What you see in it? I do not see anything. Dear son, that which you are not able to see in this small space, from that very space this great p¢pal tree standing before you has arisen. Therefore, have belief that this ¡tm¡ also is so subtle that it cannot be seen or experienced but all the created things are having their ¡tm¡ as their soul and this is the truth, and you are that".

When ávetaketu says that he is not able to see anything within that small seed when broken up and from that very same thing Udd¡laka says that the great p¢pal  tree has arisen, he wants his son to believe that. Bauddhas also would like their ¿iÀyas/followers to stop arguing and believe their statements. But that is not the end of it.

In the Y¡jµavalkya Sm¤ti, Yati Dharma Prakara¸a, the formation of a child within the womb is described, where it is said that the child gets parts of all the five bh£tas and gets its body formed. By accepting or rejecting this theory nobody is going to gain anything or lose anything. It is just the state of affairs, as it exists. Because the blind man is not able to see it and gets dashed against it, it is not the fault of the post (pillar) that it exists there.

From the bh£ta ¡k¡¿a the child gets the quality of lightness, subtleness, ¿abda, gu¸a, ¿rotra indriya and bala. Once the body of the child is formed all these qualities exist in its body. This has been explained by MaharÀi Y¡jµavalkya and he goes on explaining the formation of the other qualities, too, in the body from the other bh£tas. Is it just to mislead the people?

A patient suffering from a disease gets medicine from the Doctor as per his diagnosis; the Doctor prescribes certain restrictions in regard to the intake of food etc. The transformation of different kinds of food within the body and how they are to be tackled are known to the Doctor and not to the patient. Does that mean that the patient should disbelieve the Doctor.

Artha kriy¡ goes to prove the existence of a thing; this was one of the reasonings but even though artha kriy¡ might be there in a body, it may be invisible. It does not mean that it is not there. This can be seen in the case of the patient. After consuming the medicine he becomes hale and hearty. These are  things which are ascertained by proper reasoning. An obstructing object like a wall or its absence as ¡k¡¿a as propounded by the Bauddhas does not stand to reasoning. When you negate a thing, the use of a negative word is common. This negative word does not denote the absence of a covering agent. In that case people should say, "there is no covering agent here". In this sentence they will use the word here as the basis for the experience. And that difference is the proof for the existence of ¡k¡¿a. That is the ¡k¡¿a intended by us and is denoted by the word here. "Here the Bird flies". In this sentence the ¡dh¡ra for the Bird to fly is ¡k¡¿a. It is a positive denotation and cannot be explained by the use of a negative word.

Let us consider another point. What are the meanings of these two words ¡k¡¿a and ¿abda? People dispute about this but they do accept that these two words have come to denote something. They are matters according to the M¢m¡Æsakas. It is only a quality and not a matter according to Naiy¡yikas. It is eternal according to the M¢m¡Æsakas but it is momentary according to the t¡rkikas. In the first Chapter, first Pada, Sixth Adhikara¸a of the P£rvam¢m¡Æs¡ the   quality of eternality of ¿abda is established. The qualities of sound, how they are transmitted and how they are received are all well-known to modern science today. All these are discussed in this chapter. It is further discussed there, whether the parts of the body like the gullet, palate etc., produce the sound or  just help in making it audible. In this argument it was established that Air, which is still, at one point gets disturbed by the movement of the parts of the body, gets dislodged, and goes on generating waves travelling in all Directions. Because Air is not visible, we are not able to see their conjoint or disjoint functions.

In the YakÀa Pra¿na of Mah¡bh¡rata there is a question - of the two things born simultaneously one is experienced first and the other later. Which are these two? The answer is lightning and the roaring of the clouds; from this one can understand that ¿abda is a matter which travels according to the M¢m¡Æs¡; it is eternal, all-pervading and a matter. We use the word ¿abda for those dhvani which make the ¿abda known by our ears. Dhvani gets transmitted in all directions because of the impact of v¡yu. And thus, ¿abda is experienced by us.  Therefore, subtleness is one cause for our not being able to prove or disprove a thing. Therefore, we cannot simply deny the existence of a thing by its mere non-experience. Therefore, in things known not directly, we cannot deny anything  just like that. Therefore, ¡k¡¿a the fifth bh£ta and its two prior evolutes like aha´k¡ra and mahat are Indisputable. Non-visibility by ordinary people is not sufficient to deny their existence.

 

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