We may try now another door for an entrance into the Vedânta-philosophy, which may help in bringing the Vedânta nearer to ourselves, or ourselves nearer to the Vedânta, so that it may be looked upon not simply as a strange and curious system, but as a system of thought with which we can sympathise, nay, which, with certain modifications, we can appropriate for our own purposes 2. One of the most ancient commands of Greek philosophy was the famous Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, know thyself. Here the Hindu philosopher would step in at once and say that
this is likewise the very highest object of their own philosophy, only that they express it more fully by Âtmânam âtmanâ pasya, See the Self by the Self! But like true philosophers they would let no word pass unchallenged, and would ask at once, who or what is meant by the αὐτός, or by the Self? The Vedânta-philosophy has been called a philosophy of negation, which tries to arrive at the truth by a repeated denial of what cannot be the truth. It often defines its own character by Na, na, Not this, not that. First of all then the Vedânta would say, the αὐτός, or that which is what we are, the Self; cannot be the body. In the true sense of the word, the body is not, has no right to be called being, sat, because sooner or later it ceases to be, and nothing can ever cease to be, if it really is. As the body is not eternal, it is not real in the highest sense of reality. If therefore we want to know what is truly real, the body (deha or sthûlasarîra) cannot be the αὐτός or the Self.
But if we see that all we know comes to us through the five senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling, that we cannot go beyond the senses, that we never have nor can have more than sensuous images of the world and of ourselves, and that what we call our knowledge consists in the first instance of these images, not of any realities, which we may postulate, indeed, as underlying these images, but which we can never reach, except by hypothesis, might we not say that our senses as a whole are our αὐτός or Self? The Vedântist would reply again, No, no. Our senses are wonderful indeed, but they are only the instruments of our knowledge, they
form part of our body, they perish with the body, and cannot therefore constitute our real Self. Besides the five senses which the Hindus call gñânendriyas, senses of knowledge, they admit five other senses which they call karmendriyas, senses of action, namely, the senses of speaking, grasping, moving, excretion, and procreation. This is an idea peculiar to the Hindus, the former five being intended for action from without to within (upalabdhi), the latter for action from within to without (karman). The images brought to us by the senses, on which we depend for all our knowledge, are what we should call states of consciousness, they are not even our Ego, much less our Self. They come and go, arise and vanish, and cannot therefore be called real or eternal, as little as the body. In all these images we may distinguish the subject or the active element, and the object or the passive element. The passive or objective elements are what we are accustomed to call matter, and this matter, according to the five senses by which it is perceived, is divided into five kinds, viz. ether, corresponding to hearing; light, corresponding to seeing; air, corresponding to touching; water, corresponding to tasting; and earth, corresponding to smelling. This is all that we can legitimately mean by the five elements. They are to us states of consciousness, or vigñana only. But though to us elementary matter exists, and can exist as known, or in the form of knowledge only, the Vedânta does not deny its existence, whatever it may say about its reality. If the objects of our sensuous knowledge are all the result of Avidyâ, the elements also
must share that fate, and cannot claim more than a phenomenal reality.
As, however, there are few, if any, sensations corresponding to one element only, without being mixed up with others, each element is supposed to be five-folded, that is, to contain one preponderating quality, and small portions of the others. This so-called Pañkîkarana or quintupling is not to be found, however, in the ancient Vedânta; it belongs to the refinements, and not always improvements, of a later age to which we owe such works as the very popular Vedântasâra. A different and, as it would seem, far more primitive conception of the elements is found in the Upanishads, for instance, the Khândogya Upanishad VI, 2. We generally find in India four elements, or, with the addition of âkâsa, ether, as the vehicle of sound, five. The most primitive conception of the constituent elements of the world, however, would seem to have been three; namely, what is earthy, what is fiery, and what is watery. These three elements could not possibly be overlooked, and this threefold division is actually found in the Khândogya, where the three elements are called Anna, Tegas, and Ap, or, as they are arranged there, first, Tegas, including fire, light, and warmth, then Ap, water, and lastly Anna, earth. It is true that Anna means otherwise food, but it can here be taken in the sense of earth only, as sup-plying food. The first is represented as red, the second as white, the third as black. These three elements also are represented as being mixed in three proportions, and as constituent elements of the human body they are
represented as passing through three forms of development, the earthy portion being manifested in faeces, flesh, and Manas, the watery portion in urine, blood, and life, the fiery portion in bones, marrow, and speech. There are many of these purely fanciful speculations to be found in the Upanishads. This, however, should not be allowed to prejudice us against what is simple and primitive and rational in these depositories of ancient thought. But if it is asked, Can these passive and active senses be the Self? the Vedântist says again, No, no; they are not what we are in search of, they cannot be the αὐτός, which must be real, unchanging, and eternal.
If this applies to the ten senses, it applies with equal strength to what is sometimes called the eleventh sense, the Manas, all treated as material, and as products of the earthy element. Manas is etymologically closely connected with mens and has therefore been generally translated by mind. But though it may be used in that sense in ordinary language, it has a narrower meaning in Sanskrit philosophy. It is meant for the central and combining organ of the senses of perception and action. This Manas performs originally, what we ascribe to the faculty of attention (avadhâna): it acts, as we are told, as a doorkeeper, pre-venting the impressions of the different senses from rushing in simultaneously, and producing nothing but confusion. It is easy to show that this central sense also falls under the Vedântic No, no. It cannot be the Self, which must be permanent and real; it is an instrument only, and therefore called antahkarana--the inner organ. We see here the
same confusion which exists elsewhere. There is such an abundance of words expressive of what is going on within us, our antahkarana, our mind in its various manifestations, that we are embarrassed rather than helped by this wealth. The worst of it is that as there are so many words, it was supposed at a later time that each must have its own peculiar meaning; and, if it had not, scholastic definition soon came in to assign to each that special meaning which it was to have in future. In the meantime the stream of languages flowed on in complete disregard of such artificial barriers, and with every new philosophy the confusion became greater and greater. It is easy to understand that if each language by itself can seldom give us well-defined terms for the various manifestations of our perceptive and reasoning powers, the confusion becomes still greater when we attempt to render the psychological terms of one by those of another language. For instance, if we translated Âtman, as is mostly done, by soul, we should be rendering what is free from all passions by a word which generally implies the seat of the passions. And if we were to follow the example of others and translate Manas by understanding or Verstand, we should render what is meant as chiefly a perceptive and arranging faculty by a name that implies reasoning from the lowest to the highest form. With us Verstand is what distinguishes men from animals, while in the Vedânta, Manas is not denied to animals, not even, as it would seem, to plants 1.
It seems better therefore to retain as much as possible
the technical terms of Sanskrit philosophy, and to speak of Âtman or the Self instead of soul, of Manas, or possibly mind, instead of understanding or Verstand.
We shall see that even in Sanskrit itself the confusion is very great, there being more terms than can be accommodated or be kept distinct one from the other. By the side of the Indriyas, or senses, for instance, we also find Prânas, literally vital spirits, which include the Manas, and as a conditio sine qua non, but not as one of the Indriyas, the so-called Mukhya Prâna, the vital breath, that passes from the lungs through the mouth, and which again in a very artificial, if not to say foolish, manner is divided into five varieties. The Manas is then treated, like the senses, as part of the body, being meant at first, I believe, for no more than the central and superintending perceptive organ But it has many functions, and the names of some of them are interchanged with the names of the Manas itself. We have Buddhi, the general name for perception and mental activity, Kitta, thought or what is thought, Vigñâna, discrimination, some of which are sometimes treated as separate faculties. Samkara, however, shows his powerful grasp by comprising all under Manas, so that Manas is sometimes reason, sometimes understanding, or mind or thought. This simplifies his psychology very much, though it may lead to misunderstandings also. Manas gives us the images (Vorstellungen) which consist of the contributions of the different senses; it tells us this is this (niskaya) and fixes it (adhyavasâya). Images are formed into concepts and words (samkalpa); these may be called into question samsaya),
and weighed (vikalpa) against each other, so as to give us judgements. Here then we should have in a rough form the elements of our psychology, but it must be confessed that they were never minutely elaborated by the Vedânta philosophers. Even the meanings here assigned to the different psychological terms, were so assigned etymologically rather than from definitions given by Samkara himself. According to him, Manas gives us everything; impressions, images, concepts, and judgements, nay even self-consciousness or Ahamkâra, i.e. the Ego-making, and consequently the distinguishing between subjects and objects, all are Manas. But when we ask, is the Manas, or the Ahamkâra, or Buddhi, or Kitta, are any of the attributes of Manas, such as Kâma, desire, Dhî, fear, Hrî, shame, Dhî, wisdom, Vikikitsâ, doubt, Sraddhâ, belief, Asraddhâ, unbelief, Dhriti, decision, Adhriti, wavering,--are all or any of these the true Self? the Vedântist answers again, No, no; they are temporal, they are composite, they come and they go, they cannot be what we are in search of, the true and eternal Self. It is clear that when we say my body, there are two things presupposed, one thing the body, the other he to whom it belongs. So again when we speak of my senses, my mind, nay of my Ego, we distinguish between a possessor and what for the time being he possesses. But we should never say my Self, because that is tautological: the Self cannot belong to any one else. If we were to say my Self, we could only mean our Ego, but if we say our Self, i.e. the Self of all, or simply Self, we mean Brahman, Brahman as hidden within us and
within the world. At the time of death the organs of knowledge are not supposed to be destroyed absolutely, but while there is another life before us, they are reduced to a seminal or potential form only, and though the outward organs themselves will decay, their potentia or powers remain, dwelling in what is called the Sûkshma-Sarîra, the subtile body, the body that migrates from birth to birth and becomes again and again a Sthûla-Sarîra, a material body. But when real freedom has once been obtained, this Sûkshma-Sarîra also vanishes and there remains the Âtman only, or Brahman as he was and always will be. The form assumed by the body in every new existence is determined by the deeds and thoughts during former existences: it is still, so to say, under the law of causality.
Then what remains for the surds, for the Âtman? The Greek sages have hardly any answer to give; to them the αὐτός was seldom more than the Ego, Ahamkâra, while with the Vedântist it is distinctly not the Ego as opposed to a Non-Ego, but something beyond, something not touched by the law of causality, something neither suffering, nor enjoying, nor acting, but that without which neither the gross nor the subtile body could ever exist. This Self, this the true αὐτός, was discovered in the lotus of the heart in true Self-consciousness, it was discovered as not-personal; though dwelling in the personal or living Âtman, the Gîva, it remained for ever a mere looker-on, untouched by anything. As I said before, the Vedânta-philosophy is a philosophy of negation; it says No, no, it says all that the Self is not, but what the Self is, defies all words and all thoughts.
[paragraph continues] Our thoughts and our words return from it baffled, as the Veda says. There are passages in the Upanishads where attempts are made to bring us nearer to a conception of the Self, whether we call it the Brahman or the Âtman, but these attempts never go so far as a definition of these two, or of this One Power. In the Khândogya Upanishad III, 14, we read: 'Surely this universe is Brahman. It should be worshipped in silence as the beginning, the being, and the end of all. Its matter is thought, life its body, light its form. Its will is truth, its Self the infinite (ether). It works all, it wills all, it scents all, it tastes all, embracing the Universe, silent and unconcerned. This is the Self in the innermost heart, smaller than a mustard-seed or the kernel of it. This is the Self in the innermost heart, larger than the earth, larger than the atmosphere, larger than the sky, larger than all worlds. The all-working, all-willing, all-scenting, all-tasting one, the all-embracing, silent, unconcerned one, this is the Self in the innermost heart, this is Brahman, this I shall become when parting from hence. He who has this, does not doubt.'
This subject is treated again and again. Very much as we saw it treated in the Khândogya, we find it treated in the Taittiriya Upanishad II, 1-7. One covering after another is there removed, till there remains in the end the pure Self. First the body of flesh and blood is re-moved, then the vital breath, then the Manas, and with it thought, till at last nothing remains but the Self full of bliss. This is called the sap or the essence. It is this Self
that brings bliss, finding peace and rest in the invisible, the immaterial, the inexpressible, the unfathomable. So long as anything else is left, hidden anywhere, there is no peace and no rest, however wise a man may think himself. Or, as Yâgñavalkya says: 'He who knows this, knows everything.' Every name that can be imagined for expressing what is really inexpressible, is assigned in the Upanishads to Brahman. Brahman is neither long nor short, neither subtile nor gross; he is without parts, without activity, still, without spot, without fraud, he is unborn, never growing old, not fading nor dying, nor fearing anything; he is without and within.' Whether such a being can be called he, is very doubtful, for he is neither he nor she; he is It in the very highest sense of that undifferentiated pronoun.
We thus see that both methods, the first that started from the postulate that the true Self must be one, without a second, and the second, which holds that the true Self must be unchanging, eternal, without beginning or end, arrive at the same final result, viz. that the Self of the world can be nothing that is perceived in this changing world, and that our own Self too can be nothing that is perceived as changing, as being born, as living and dying. Both may, in one sense of the word, be called nothings; though they are in reality that in comparison with which everything else is nothing. If the world is real the Self is not, if the Self is real the world is not.
80:2 Cf. Deussen, l.c. p. 60 seq.
85:1 Deussen, 1.c. p. 258.