Vijnanabhiksu, the author of Vijnanamrtabhasya, an independent commentary on Badarayana's Brahma sutras, conceived a system in which both the world and the individual selves also enjoyed the status of reality and which accorded due importance to both knowledge and action as means to liberation. He believed that it is the philosophy of the unreality of the world which was responsible for man's alienation from his environment and in order to help him overcome the alienation a more meaningful relationship of man with his surroundings and fellow-beings was needed. This is precisely the reason why Vijnanabhiksu took up cudgels against the advocates of Maya and expounded a system in which the world has been accepted as a real transformation of Prakrti, the power of the Absolute, and which thus has no place for Maya in the sense in which it has in the philosophy of Advaita.
Vijnanabhiksu's system is a peculiar blend of knowledge, yoga and bhakti. Probably it was the need of the times and it is for this reason that he combined both the non-dualistic idealism of Samkara and the realistic idealism of Samkhya with the prevailing cult of devotion. It is his zeal for syncretism that he has welded various philosophical trends of Samkhya. Yoga, Vedanta, Puranas etc. into his system of Integral Non-dualism.
Kanshi Ram is Reader, Department of Sanskrit, Hans Raj College, University of Delhi
Vijnanabhiksu’s system of philosophy has been called here ‘Integral Non-dualism. It is mainly his commentary on the Brahmasutras, known as Vijnanamrtabhasya, which has been made the basis to present his system of philosophy. He has himself described his system of thought as avibhagãdvaita at several places in the commentary. It means that the Absolute is an integral whole in which prakrti and purusas inhere as Its real powers. But it should not be confounded with Sri Aurobindo’s philosophical system, known as Integral Advaita; the latter differs from the former in many important respects. Aurobindo’s philosophy as laid down in the Life Dithne is widely recognized as a ‘double-ladder’ (Involution-Evolution)’ philosophy whereas that of Vijnanabhiku may be designated in contrast as a single-ladder (only evolution) system. Vijnanabhiku postulates the Eternal Pure-Sattva-Adjunct (Up&41U) of the Absolute while Sri Aurobindo does not conceive any such principle. Moreover, the conceptions of super-mind, over mind, divine manifestation in matter, etc. which occupy so central a place in Sri Aurobindo are not to be found in Vijnanabhiksu’s works even in a remote sense.
Vijnanabhiksu advocates the reality of the world and the individual selves along with chat of the Absolute. However, in the process of proving the independent status of worldly objects and selves, he lands himself in the dilemma of the less real and the more real. The resolution of this intricate problem defies him. It is indeed baffling when he takes recourse to the concept of Eternal Adjunct of the Absolute in order to lay down that it is only the Absolute which is ultimately real. Reality according to him consists in the incidence of meaningful activity which is possible only when the upãdhi is in operation. Excepting the Eternal Pure-Sattva-Upa4hi of the Absolute, all other upàdhis of the selves submerge in prakrti along with other manifestations at the time of dissolution (pralaya). It means, therefore, that the Pure-Sattva-Adjunct of the Absolute continues to remain in operation and performs meaningful activity in the form of perceiving the whole universe. It is this meaningful adjunctival function of the Absolute in virtue of which It is regarded as real at the ultimate level. It implies that other manifestations and the selves are less real. As such a hierarchical status of reality reigns supreme in this system of Integral Non-dualism.
Metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and the summum bonum form the basis of a proper system of philosophy. Chapter V on the Theory of Double Reflection fairly represents the epistemological views of Vijñanabhiku and his views on ethics are briefly discussed in the chapter on Bondage and liberation. As such the present attempt may be taken as an exposition of Vijnanabhiku’s philosophical system.
The chapters second and fifth of the present work were respectively published in Dharmanirajanã (1989), pp. 281-306, a volume dedicated to the memory of Dharmendra Nath Shastri and in Studies in Indology: Prof Rasik 1zhari Joshi Felicitation Volume (1988-89), pp. 257-81. The titles under which they were published in the above- mentioned volumes respectively were “Vijñanabhiku’s Conception of the Absolute” and “Vkjnanabhiku’s Doctrine of Bondage and Liberation”. “Vijnänabhiku’s Theory of Double Reflection” included in the present volume was published in the Annals of the Rhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. LXIX for 1988, pp. 77-92. I thank the respective editors for their permission to include the articles just mentioned.
The present work was submitted to the University Grants Commission in the form of a minor research project entitled “A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Vijnanabhiku.” It was approved for a financial grant in 1985. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the University Grants Commission for the same. It was an act of generosity on the part of Dr. Ramesh Kumar Sharma that he accepted this manuscript for editing. He gave many valuable suggestions for improvement both in content and presentation. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to him. Thanks are also due to Dr. A.K Monga and Dr. G.P. Bhatt who read portions of this work and suggested improvements. I also thank Sri N.P. Jain Managing Director Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd for its publication.
Philosophy in India has passed through many a change since the time of Upanisads which abound the Absolute and Its relationship with the individual self and the word. The segment of time following the Upanisads witnessed development and formulation of some of the seminal ideas contained in them. The result was the emergence of various systems of philosophy. It was mainly the systems of Sanskrit and Vedanta which addressed themselves seriously to the philosophically important issues the Upanisads actually grappled with. These issues concern the nature of Absolute, individual self, status of the world, their mutual relationship, the phenomenon of plurality, etc. In the case of Vedanta, specially Advaita Vednata, Sanskrit ingeniously built up the system of Non-dualism and claimed by implication that the philosophical system propound by him alone represented the true spirit of the Upanisads and hence of the Badarayana-sutras. Nevertheless many other attempt were also made by thinkers such as Ramanuja, Madhva, Vijnanabhiksu, etc. to internet the Brahmasutras and to formulated their own systems of thought. Among them it was Vijnanabhiksu who remained neglected so far as his commentary, that is, Vijnanamrtabhasya on the Brahmasutras, is concerned; he largely remained known for his work on Sankhya, called Sankhyapravacanabhasya.
Vijnanabhiksu disagrees with both Sankara and Ramanuja though he appears to be more akin to the latter. The reason is not very far to seek. Advocating absolute Non-dualism, Sankara rejected the view that lays emphasis on the synthesis of knowledge and action for the attainment of liberation of liberation. He steadfastly held the view that it is only knowledge which severs the knot of bondage and frees the individual self. When, with the advent of Ramanuja, a new cult of devotion gained ascendancy, Vijnanabhiksu did not remain unaffected. He conceived a system in which both the world and the individual selves also enjoy the status of really and accorded due importance to both knowledge and action as means to liberation. He believed that it was the philosophy of the unreality of the world which was responsible for man’s alienation from his environment and in order to help him overcome the alienation a more meaningful relationship of man with his surroundings and fellow-being was needed. Devotion relates man to the Lord through the I-and-thou relationship. It is possible only when both the ultimate and the individual self are conceived to be real. This is precisely the reason why Vijnanabhiksu took up cudgels against the advocates of maya (prapanca-mithyatva) and expounded a system in which the world has been accepted as a real transformation (manifestation) of prakrti, the power of the Absolute and hence I which maya has no place in the sense in which it has in the philosophy of Advaita.
To achieve this objective he took clues mainly from the Puranic sources and his interpretative observations on them bear out that he was familiar with the prevalent beliefs and traditions. If his comments on and quotations from the Puranas are pooled together, the contours of a fairly consistent hermeneutics of the Puranas can be comprehended.
His thought is a peculiar blend of knowledge, yoga, and bhakti. Though he is catholic in his views and approach, yet he upholds the principles of varnasrama tradition. Probably it was the need of the hour when he lived and wrote his works. It is also for this reason that he combined both the idealism of Sankara and the realistic idealism of Sankhya with the prevailing cult of devotion.
He has been considerably influenced by Navya-Nyaya in the method of interpretation. This is clear from his commentaries on the Sankhya, yoga and Vedanta sutras. It is due to his syncretic zeal that he is even charged with grafting the notions of Nyaya-Vaisesika on Sankhya and those of Sankhya on the philosophy of Vedanta. This is why a proper assessment of Vijnanabhiksu’s philosophy demands that his chronology be decided first after properly examining the attempts made by different scholars in this regard.
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