Saturday, 29 May 2010



The effect already exists in the cause for the following reasons: what is nonexistent cannot he produced; for producing a thing, a specific material cause is resorted to; everything is not produced by everything; a specific material cause capable of producing a specific product alone produces that effect; there is such a thing as a particular cause for a particular effect.

The unevolved exists as the primordial cause because the diverse evolutes are all attended by limitations, because common features subsist through all of them (arguing inheritance from a common cause), because the evolved has come into being as the result of the potentiality of a cause, because the distinction of cause and effect apply to the entire world without exception.

As all aggregates imply one different from themselves whom they subserve, as that for whom they are intended should differ from their own nature, namely, being composed of three dispositions, etc., as objects imply an enjoyer, and as there is seen through evolution a striving for liberation, there exists the spirit.

( The Sankhya Karikas of Ishvarakrishna 309/310/311 Sources of Indian Tradition)

This is the very point which Sankara adduces against them - " so on the absence of any logical ground for acquiring the tendency to act, the insentient(Pradhana) is not to to be the cause of the universe". (Brahma Sutra Bhasya II.ii.2)

Although Shankara did not agree with the creation theory of the Sankhya, 14 centuries after them he still retained some of their metaphysical ideas. Satkarvavada would be the chief one but there is also the idea that the Self has no action and the intellect no consciousness.

“Hence, as a result of union with the spirit, the evolved though non—sentient, yet appears to be sentient; and on its part, the spirit too, though the dispositions of matter alone act, appears to act but is really indifferent. It is for the sake of enlightenment of the spirit and the eventual withdrawal from primordial matter (i.e. liberation of the spirit from matter) that the two come together, even as the lame and the blind come together for mutual benefit; creation proceeds from this union.”(pg.311 Sources op.cit)

Shankara would hold that consciousness is always there beginingless, and that creation is itself beginingless and therefore he would reject the idea of consciousness as being a latecomer which gives an aim to the evolute.

Satkaryavada he found useful as a tool against the Buddhist doctrine of Annica (momentariness). The vital bridge of being would be broken by it and anything could spring from anything.

“For the non—existent there is no coming into existence, for the existent there is no lapsing into non—existence. the division between them is observed by those who see the underlying nature of things”. (from B.G. II.16)

Here the theory of satkaryvada gets the Vedanta seal of approval so it must be taken to be a central theory and a prime point of disputation in the maze of metaphysical box, impenetrable and beautifully tended, of six entrances or darsanas which would be regarded as astika and others spurned as nastika, unorthodox.

Opposed to the satkaryvadins are the asatkaryvadins who do not believe that the effect pre—exists in the cause. This they say would lead back to an inert pradhana or prakriti. Our bodies would be our selves and everything would be its own cause.(svahhavavada) The material cause essentially is not the only condition for the production of an effect. If that were so the only way of ensuring that a given effect did not arise would be by ensuring that its material cause never arose. Anyone who has ever made yoghurt will know that the bacteria need cosseting.

The purusas are brought in by Ishvarakrishna as a deus ex machina to get him out of this difficulty and also to satisfy the many Vedantic injunctions about the Self. They and their avidya supply the necessary motive power for the progress of evolution. How do these Selves affect nature? (Karl PotterPresuppositions of India’s Philosophies pg.108)[i] sees in the answer of the sankhyas the beginning of an epistemological approach to a cosmic maintenance problem. These selves by confusing themselves with material reality cause the process of evolution. In that case it takes viveka to set aside that confusion and achieve moksha.

If the selves are immaterial how then do they get together with the material prakriti? The answer to this is that their confusion is beginingless. How do things get confused which have no basis for similarity? Shankara would answer that there is no general rule that only things which are similar are confused. The self is taken to he fair or black. It is also the case that in the adhyasa which takes place the intellect which is ‘next’ to the self comes to be regarded as the self.

Ajnana and avidya are the Advaitin’s way of expressing this cosmic ignorance. ‘Adhyasa’ lit.setting upon, is the mechanism. Vivartavada which is the illusory appearance of the one stuff under many guises all of which are unreal by comparison with the underlying substratum, has a monistic tone in contrast to the cosmic dualism of the beginingless purusha/prakriti dyad. Tad eva Brahman.

The Buddhists are of course devout asatkaryavadins. Annica is central to the primitive doctrine. Whether as some hold the universe is mental or yet material they are alike in holding it to be momentary. The metaphor they use for expressing the apparency of unity is the ‘circle of fire’ , the alatacakra. ‘There are no souls or selves only patterns of momentary occurrences.’ (Potter, pg.119: “If the effect pre-exists in the cause why doesn’t it come into existence as soon as the cause does?”

The Self does not change in either Advaita or Sankhya but in the latter there is a gulf between the world of spirit and that of matter. Shankara would have a more unified relationship between the world and the Self, so therefore the logical need to have non—discrimination occur in prakriti would be unnecessary. Prakriti has evolved into this world which includes the body, mind and senses. Purusha is a passive witness of all this. Mental activity which is material does not affect the witness (saksin) in any way.

The gamut is run from totally inert prakriti which is called pradhana by Shankara to nature as we know it with man and his mind set over against it. ((pg.150/I K.P.)) Why does the Sankhya system not succumb to the pressure to merge Purusha and Prakriti or to go with either one or the other, as there is no plausible account of how they came to be yoked together in the first instance.

What causes the evolution to commence? What removes the upadhis? What is it that operates directly on the core prakriti? If it’s purusha then there is contact between the two which is death to the aloof saksin. The upadhis are limiting negative factors such as time and place ie. proper time and place. The purusha does not do anything to remove these inhibiting factors; the proper time and place simply arrives. What is interesting is that Ishvarakrishna was an atheist and yet the goal of his system was liberation.

In the classification of Karl Potter Shankara is almost a leap philosopher in that he would go beyond the pairs of opposites or conceptual thought, in order to realize unity. He accepts satkaryvada without at the same time accepting pradhana. He takes from Sankhya the instrument of insight as a way to vault over the toils of prakriti.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Realism 1

Realism was the firstest with the mostest. Everything springs from it and is a reaction to it. Because it is the intuitive position and philosophy earns its keep by countering folk metaphysics some thinkers like to characterise it as 'naive'. To me that is to substitute rhetoric for reasoned analysis. Were Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Shankaracarya naive realists?

What is the initial encounter that gives realism its primal force? Of anything we can say 'it is and it is something'. Being meets being one might say but when you turn on that tap aporiai begin to flow. Sheltering as they did in the pleroma the pre-socratic and vedic sages could utter:

Om. That (Brahman) is infinite and this (universe) in infinite. The infinite proceeds from the infinite. (Then) taking the infininitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone.
(from Brh.Up.V.i.1)

“Nor is it divided, since it is all alike;/ and it is not any more there, which would keep it from holding together,/ nor any worser, but it is all replete with What Is./ [25] Therefore it is all continuous: for What Is approaches What Is (B 7.1)

Early in both encounters with being there emerged the puzzle: how could being emerge from non-being, how could something which was not cause something which is. The satkaryavadathesis emerged as an early answer within the vedic tradition and was very influential. My note on this theory fragmentary though it is I will post separately.

At this point someone will say that there is no real connection between the pre-socratics and the vedic sages other than that they reside within the ambit of my mind. That for the anti-realist would be perfectly real enough within the meaning of the word. My view is that neither of these groups comes from Mars and that the ingenuity of their individual responses can be analogous. However I would reject outright assimilation. Nobody then knew that they were realists.
But since there is a furthest limit, it is perfected/ from every side, like the bulk of a well-rounded globe,/ from the middle equal every way: for that it be neither any greater/ [45] nor any smaller in this place or in that is necessary;/ for neither is there non-being, which would stop it reaching/ to its like, nor is What Is such that it might be more than What Is/ here and less there. Since it is all inviolate,/ for it is equal to itself from every side, it extends uniformly in limits.

If they weren't realists can they be said to be monists? A commonplace interpretation has been that they both ignore diversity and cling to the nostrum which declares 'all is one'. Not true but there is the difficulty of accounting for the 'many' where there is such a powerful intuition of the 'one'.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Trapped wind gives you that sensation where you feel that your tripes are like those narrow balloons that are hard to start but then move quickly to bursting point. So I got up, 5:13 am, and took a large dose of Mother's specific, bread soda (bicarbonate of soda). Giant burp. When I went back to bed I slept until the p.m. I was not in the best of form and as I try to keep the history of my inward parts in pectore was not able to release a palace bulletin. If you want to know this sort of report is interdict. Nobody cares. Then I read yesterdays Guardian magazine where there was an article on profiling by Jon Ronson.
Step by step he draws you into a world which is near this one but where there are a greater percentage of people who wear white coats. It is a world in which being dead wrong is a paradigm case of rightness in that the false contains a truth and that there could only be a false where the true was possible. In an explosion of laughter the megrims were banished.

Later on I started reading Anthony Powell's A Question of Upbringing the first book of the Dance to the Music of Time series. A classic. The laughter cure goes on and should the binding wind get up in the night I will have something to read.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Cher Maitre Cormac writes:

As Pantugrel is walking through a cold patch he is hit by a particularly bad hail storm. Frozen words falling from the sky. Rabelais explains these are words that weren't heard.

Listening to a sanskrit scholar on the radio the other day he mentioned that all mathematical theory was written in verse, and that the Indians were the leading mathematicians until th 14 or 15 century.
The extant sanscrit classical library is apparently enormous.
And phenomenology in all this? Is it a realism? The word is an integral part of the phenomenon, is it not? And it would seem to be non dual.

I have always loved being in a new place where I don't understand the language and have to imagine and surmise what people are saying. Its a condition which doesn't last very long, little by little we begin to distinguish sounds and eventually meaning. It is always a dissapointment to find that the meaning is not very dissimilar to ones own.(I've never been to Amazonia for example.But the Vodoo priests in Benin can tell by the sound of the sea if there are fish to catch.)Eventually the language becomes transparent and it is the meaning that becomes dominant.

The Zaroastrian priests had very small chapels, big enough for only one person, sometimes two.They would bring about the world by their liturgical description of it,each thing in its proper place and proportion.Then if the world was summoned up fittingly, the sacrifice could take place.They too came from the Aryan invasion and share a common root with the Vedas.

I think all liturgies are a conjuring up of a world,or a god.And the worlds exist and the gods come if the words are right.

I ask:

But could those psychopomps do 'explication de texte'?

Those adepts of what might be unfolded had ways of achieving stastis in the concrete actuality of the statements themselves. Eternality reflected in an unchanging text could be checked by rhymes and quantities. Not only that but from the mantras they extracted like the meat from a nut the bijas and if you dared follow them go back to the sounding void of the 'nirbija'.

All the more reason that the group of seeds (bijas) which, because they are independent of the constraints of convention, cause consciousness to vibrate thus constitute a valid means for the attainment of consciousness. Because of the nonexistence of meaning to be expressed, because they vibrate in consciousness in a way that is totally indifferent to the external reality, because they are self-illuminating, because they cause the extinction of the movement of the vital breath - for these reasons the group of seeds are completely full and self-sufficient.
(Abhivinagupta on Bijas/ from The Triadic Heart of Siva by Muller-Ortega pub. Suny '89)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Someone said to me the other day that when you are in pain, emotional pain, nothing that is said to you registers; the gnawing thing soaks up all your attention. Yes. There is too that point when your mind is gouged to the founds and images flare. The puddle of rainwater reflecting the temple and the patterned bits of mirror in the temple wall reflecting the sky. Bodhgaya.

In Benares I was downed by a mysterious one day virus. For that day I was unable to move. Then after a deep calm sleep I got up feeling light, almost bodiless. I decided that before the long trip south I would visit the place of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha was enlightened. It's a short distance from Gaya on the Benares-Calcutta line. Every tourist should travel 3rd class unreserved in India. Once. When everyone that wanted to get into the carriage was in, the last man came in through the window, we set off. The ash streaked holy men with their high piled dung matted hair paid no attention to the notice 'ticketless travel is a social evil'.
It was dark when I got off at Gaya and found a place to put down my mat in the ticket hall. Lying on my back, a rug around me, I was soon asleep.

On waking I was too weak to resist the massage artist who began to knead my leg. It felt good and being paid 5 rupees, a day's wage at 7 in the morning must have surprised him. I took the first cycle rickshaw and struck a price for the four mile trip to Bodhgaya. Out in the country we stopped for tea at a roadside chai stall - a few sheets of galvanised stretched from a tree with some banana leaves on top. The tea dust was brewed with watery milk and strained through a muslin. It was poured from mug to mug to cool it, a yard long stream that was delivered up with froth. The fresh grass was lush on the verges and the fields were flooded for the rice planting.

The hermitage where I was directed to go was 1Rp. per night with use of fan extra. Swami in charge taking me to the large communal room asked me:

- You are coming from Ireland, what is your mission in India?
- I am just a traveller.
- Atchar, please enjoy, put your mat anywhere.

I walked up the road. Scraps of cloth and banners of silk fluttered in the branches of an enormous bodhi tree. The same tree? At its base slabs were set into the ground at intervals tall enough to act as blinds for the individual meditators. One ascetic sat there relaxed, his body braced by its posture.

The stupa to commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment was close by. Outside it two Tibetan monks were doing their 1008 full prostrations. I left them undulating and walked inside to the inner chamber where deep inside the cool silence was a golden statue of the Buddha. Round his feet some mice scampered nibbling on sheaves of wheat.

A flight of stone steps led to the first tier of the stupa which was open to the sun. In an alcove a standing Buddha stretched forth his hand. There were Greek folds in the drapery that lightened and gave mobility to the figure.

I heard the drum before I saw them. It was a funeral procession bearing a body on a litter of saffron cloth bound round two poles which was followed by a drummer lashing with a switch his deep bellied drum and two cavorting sadhus festooned with bones celebrating this oblation to the Divine Mother Kali.

Down at the local chai house and Brahmins restaurant I had the traditional speciality, milk rice, which Buddha is said to have had before he went to meditate. Two Americans were sitting there dressed in orange robes. Their heads were shaven. They had little orange purses. One said:

- That sunset last night was the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen.
The other said:
- Every sunset is the most beautiful sunset.

That night I lay in muck sweat, the fan churning the thick air like a spoon in gruel.
In the morning coming from my shower I met a lean monk of the centre. The mosquitoes were swarming around my ankles - any pause gives them occasion.

- You are coming from which country sir, and what is your profession, what can you do?
- I'm Irish, and I'm afraid that I can do very little, I'm a teacher.
- That is a pity, what we need are doctors and nurses for our mission in the jungle. You are a thinker sir, have you found the peace of mind in India?
- No, I haven't.

This answer seemed to annoy him as if to say 'you can't have taken your medicine or you would be getting well, isn't it!

I suppose he was used to dealing with earnest seekers after wisdom. My mind wasn't at peace, it was quiet through exhaustion from the struggle all these months to explain to myself why she had left me. If mind is a way of seeing the world, construing it, making sense of it; I had no mind. Still everything was there as it arose and then it flowed away and I threw nothing after it. No part of my awareness adhered to it, to obscure its present life.

The face of the Tibetan Lama who took me into the shrine room rises like a bubble of air breaking the surface of a lotus pond. There was a painting of the Buddhas of the 4 Quarters with their attendant deities and their consorts around the seed Buddha at the centre. There were lunar thrones, horse thrones, peacock thrones, elephant thrones, lion thrones, fire enhaloed lotus thrones, a figure bearing a bowl, a skull filled with blood, coral, a book and a sword. To one dressed in yellow with staff and begging bowl he pointed and said:

- He here Shakya Muni Bodhgaya Buddha.
He then brought me to the great bell-like prayer wheel with 1008 words of power written all round it. Each turn you gave the wheel gained you their virtue. It was 7 tons weight yet it turned easily, a marvel of ballbearings and balance pinging like a typewriter at the end of each round.

On my way through the compound of the Tibetan monastery I saw the lone meditator of the day before. He was washing rice in a little pot, swirling the water round and pouring it out with the same easy absorption. It was the cheapest half polished red rice, begged that morning.

Had he the peace of mind, or even skilful irony in stirring times? I was wandering at the edge of the picture amid all the exoticism and the seeking. Perhaps I was beginning to accept the sweet teaching of failure having sat at the feet of unqualified resentment. She, she, she. The reality of any ease was tested by her memory. Empty.

Now my mind had stopped. It was the way of exhaustion: so far into the maze, being blocked, out again and back in by the same route.

I stayed in Bodhgaya for two more days. Once I ate some milk rice and sat under the tree but I didn't notice any difference.