प्रकाशक्रियास्थितिशीलं भूतेन्द्रियात्मकं भोगापवर्गार्थं दृश्यम्॥१८॥
prakaasha=illumination; kriyaa=activity; sthiti=inertia; shIlaM=having the nature of; bhUta=elements; indriya=senses; atmakaM=having the nature of; bhoga=experience; apavarga=liberation; arthaM=object, purpose; dRushyam=the knowable;
All three commentators have provided a fairly long commentary on this sutra. Below, I have tried to bring out the salient points.
"The Seen (objective side of manifestation) consists of the elements and sense organs, is of the nature of cognition, activity and stability (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) and has for its purpose providing the Purusa with) experience and liberation."
- Object of perception consists of a number of properties or dharmas
- What does the cognition of these properties depend upon? Three principles:
- vibration involving rhythmic motion of particles (army troupe marching in unison),
- non-rhythmic motion with transference of energy (random movement in a crowd),
- inertia involving relative position of particles (prisoners in a cell).
- For example, when we look at an object, the visual image is brought in through light vibrations (prakasha/sattva); multiple images are randomly available (kriya/rajas); after the cognition, a steady image is created in the mind which finally gets lodged in the memory (sthiti/tamas). A similar sequence happens with all other perceptions.
- The three gunas are intimately related to one another. Sattva, for example, is a harmonious combination of the other two, rajas and tamas.
- At the beginning of evolution, Purusha comes in contact with Prakriti which disturbs the equilibrium state of the three gunas. The objective of yoga is to harmonize rajas and tamas back into sattva which needs to dominate before Purusha can realize it own true nature. This is self-realization.
- When self-realization is attained through a dominant sattva, the other two gunas are not ‘dead’. They are just not active; however, they can be called upon into action if the sattva so desires. So, for a realized person, the gunas are under the control of sattva and come into play when the consciousness is projected outward.
- The basic elements involved in the perception of any object are bhutas (physical elements) and indiryas (sense organs) (this topic will be dealt with in detail in sutras 3.45 and 3.48).
- The purpose of the phenomenal world is to provide an experience which helps in the growth and perfection of the individual centers of consciousness
- The final role of the phenomenal world is to provide liberation for the Purusha. It is only through the experiences provided by the bhutas and indriyas that the evolution of consciousness can unfold until final liberation happens.
"The object or knowable is by nature sentient, mutable and inert. It exists in the form of the elements and the organs, and serves the purpose of experience and emancipation."
- Sattva is sentience – knowing (for a subject or organs of knowledge) or capable of being known (for an object of Prakriti); rajas is mutability – all forms of movement and action; tamas is inertia – latencies and retention
- The three gunas are transformed into bhutas (elements) and indriyas (sense organs).
- Knowledge involves knowing, acting and retaining impressions of cognition, feelings and actions. Similarly the physical objective reality stands for knowable, actions and what is retained. Foe example, in the knowledge of a tree, the cognition aspect is sattva, the activity that produces this knowledge is rajas, and the potentiality which is dormant but when actualized becomes the manifest knowledge is inertia or tamas.
- Thus, all internal and external worlds are made up of the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.
- A knowable or an object is that which needs association with Purusha for being revealed. The elements (bhutas) and the organs (indriyas) constitute the entirety of the world of objects.
- For the Seer (Purusha), the seen (drishya) has two purposes – that of providing experience of pleasure and pain, and of liberation. Liberation implies that the seer realizes that it is not an object or knowable but is separate from all knowables (drishya or Prakriti).
- Gunas are interdependent and influenced by each other. One guna is dominant at a given time whereas the other two act as subordinates.
- Prakriti in the form of the three gunas is the material cause of the entire internal and external phenomenal world.
- All objects (all that is not Purusha) can be divided into perceptible and perception. For example, sound is perceptible and is composed of knowledge of sound which is sattva, vibration which is rajas and the potential energy of sound which is tamas. For each of the other senses, a similar analysis can be made. Similarly for the organs of perception these three states are present. For sound, for example, the knowledge of sound is sattva, nervous impulse created by the external vibration is rajas and the stored energy in the nerves and muscles represents tamas. Thus everything, internal or external, is an aggregate of the three gunas.
- Pleasure and pain are characteristics of buddhi (intellect). Happiness etc are the objects of experience by the Purusha. Pleasure and pain are a result of the reflected consciousness of Purusha. Giving up both pleasure and pain leads to final liberation.
- Witnessing of and identification with the experience is called bondage whereas witnessing the buddhi in liberation is called freedom (kaivalya).
- Vyasa enumerates these basic functions of the inner instruments which are the result of the joint action of the mind and the senses: reception, retention, recollection, elimination, conception, and determination. These six are present in all states of a fluctuating mind. When the fluctuations of the mind stop, these six also come to a stop.
"That which is knowable has the nature of illumination, activity, and inertia (sattva, rajas and tamas). It consists of the senses and the elements, and exists for the purpose of (providing) either liberation or experience (to purusha)."
The commentary by Bryant follows very closely the comments made by Aranya which are based largely on the original commentary by Vyasa. Some key points made by Bryant are:
- As long as the world is manifest, the three gunas are always in flux. They assert themselves in various proportions, giving rise to ever-changing world of manifest forms.
- Even though one guna may dominate at a given time, the other two are also always present.
- The gunas pervade all manifest reality, whether of the nature of the organs of cognition or the objects of cognition.
- The purpose of the gunas is to provide either experience of liberation for the purusha. Experience consists in pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain while liberation entails realization by purusha of its own true nature.
- Experience and liberation are products of buddhi (intellect) but are attributed to purusha. Vyasa gives the example that even though the soldiers do the fighting, victory or defeat is attributed to the commander of the army. The buddhi, in this case, needs the reflected consciousness of purusha for its function and so purusha is supposed to have the experience as well as liberation.
- Bondage is the false identification of purusha with the buddhi. Liberation is the uncoupling of purusha from the buddhi. Both of these are states of the mind.
- When the buddhi is impure due to the dust of rajas and darkness of tamas, it does not discriminate between the seer and the seen. When the buddhi is purified, the natural illumination of sattva shines through and the distinction between purusha and buddhi becomes clear.
Swami Veda Bharati provides some more details on the bhutas (elements) and indriyas (senses) which are the 23 evolutes of Prakriti grouped into these two categories:
- five gross elemens – earth, water, fire, air and ether;
- five subtle elements (tanmatras) – smell, taste, sight, touch and sound.
- Five karmendriyas (organs of action) – feet for locomotion, hands, excretory, reproductive, speech
- Five jnanendriyas (organs of perception) – ears, eyes, nose, tongue, skin
- Buddhi (intellect)
- Ahamkara (ego)
I am intrigued to find "mind" being listed under gross senses. Based on my understanding so far, I would place mind under the ‘subtle’ category. I would appreciate your thoughts.
It is interesting to note the etymology of the word "apavarga" used in the sutra. The prefix "apa" usually means away or off. "varga" is derived from the root "vRuj" which means to abandon or renounce. Thus, apavarga means a state in which the empowerment of gunas can be abandoned and transmigration into cycles of birth and rebirth etc can be terminated. Hence the word apavarga has been used for ‘liberation’.
One of the key takeaways from this sutra is Vyasa’s statement that both bhoga (experience) and apavarga (liberation) are happening in the buddhi (intellect) since Purusha, in the true sense, is simply a witness. As mentioned above, they are attributed to Purusha only because the buddhi functions based on reflected consciousness from the Purusha. Apavarga implies that all identification between the Purusha and what is happening in the buddhi is severed and Purusha remains as a pure witness.