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Yukteswar's Samkhya Philosophy
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Wave
The wave is essentially water. A sea is likewise.

Yukteswar's Samkhya Philosophy

Briefing

The underlying unity of the Seven Seas is salt water. Yukteswar tries to reconcile Samkhya, a Hindu philosophy, with Bible teachings, pointing out "their underlying unity", which is likewise, like water.

Yukteswar accepts the Supreme Being, called Parabrahman, in his study. But the Self is not to be found through discrimination, says many scriptures, since it is beyond classification [cf. Hos 21-22 too]. Yukteswar describes or indicates Self/God anyway. Moreover, he does so according to claims of a theistic Samkhya philosophy.

Granting that a text that sets out to describe the Indescribable contains deep flaws and perhaps meagre wisdom too, this is an abstract of his treatise Kailvalya Darsanam: The Holy Science:

Yukteswar says, in essence, that Eternal, Real Substance, so to speak, cannot be comprehended by common man, but the divine man can when he comes to understand he is "nothing but a mere idea" [Hos 21-22, 96], the one who becomes united with that Supreme Being as "Isolated, Aloof" in Kaivalya. Thereby common people cannot understand that man well either, just as God cannot be understood by them. He risks being taken for crazy!

Compare how rulers of old are described in Taoism: They had fine natures, and yet appeared like raw wood - So strive to make yourself inert, eventually to stir. [From Tao Te Ching's chap. 15].

Further, the outer world, which common man comprehends, is nothingness to Yukteswar and three other gurus he is associated with, and this "nothingness" consists of 25 said "building blocks" of a sort (tattvas, principles). - From nothingness to the ordinarily Incomprehensible there is a way, he teaches further - and the Way from utter nothing and upwards is aligned to the particular building blocks (tattvas).

Yukteswar grants (above) that an idea can understand - a joke! No, a being can understand. Long ago it was told that it is the thinker (understander) that is worth going a lot into. In the words of the Kaushitaki Upanishad (3:8): "It is not thought which we should want to know: we should know the thinker." [In Mascaró 18]

To put it straight: There are other old philosophies of India than Samkhya (Sankhya). Besides, old Sankhya is non-theistic. Further, the Vedanta system (darshan) contains keys to solve much of the thought-mess of Yukteswar.

The "Eternal and Real" is beyond mere words - that is an ancient alert

There is a country song from 1957. It repeats:

From a Jack to a King.
From loneliness to a wedding ring.

Yukteswar stands for a reverse drift: "From a wedding ring to loneliness (kaivalya)." If you read the terse summary, do you need to study Samkhya's old gradations "from nothingness to the Eternal and Real (Loneliness)"? Are a lot of such steps (of dissimilar mentions) needed? Or better sophisticated views on this and that? Is real Gold found as your true Self, then? That could be for you to find out, as a problem getting near to you, to make it your own somehow. [Cf. Ssi 78]

The main thing: The Main Thing is beyond words and phrases, beyond great-sounding concepts, according to several Upanishads and Vedanta. Granted that, Samkhya words make weary. The good thing: You don't really need such words. Instead, get a good mantra and go inwards in fit yogi ways. Otherwise, in the Hindu scriptures there are many words to confirm how some "words are weariness". [Cf Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.4.21]

Yet there is also this often repeated and upliffting "song": Brahman in the Universe, Godly Immanence, is the Spirit of some humans [Atman], the Self. Some say Atman (Self, All-Self) is in all, but since all too many behave like marionettes and make victims of themselves, I for one have to reserve judgement on that one. Compare Bhagavad Gita sayings in Swami Sivananda's great translation:

Whatever being (and objects) that are pure, active and inert, know that they proceed from me. They are in me, yet I am not in them. (7:12)

Deluded by these Natures (states or things) composed of the three qualities of Nature, all this world does not know me as distinct from them and immutable. (7:13)

. . .

The evil-doers and the deluded, who are the lowest of men, do not seek me; they whose knowledge is destroyed by illusion follow the ways of demons. (7:15)

Four kinds of virtuous men worship me, Arjuna! They are the distressed, the seeker of knowledge, the seeker of wealth, and the wise . . .! (7:16)

Of them, the wise, ever steadfast and devoted to the One, excels (is the best); for, I am exceedingly dear to the wise and he is dear to me. (7:17)

. . .

The wise man comes to me, realising that all this is Vasudeva (the innermost Self); such a great soul (Mahatma) is very hard to find. (3:18)

"They proceed from me, are in me, yet I am not in them" seems perhaps enigmatic. "The seeker of wealth worships" has such a positive tone. "The steadfast, realising wise one is dearest to God and comes to God" -

Now, how is all that to be understood - and by whom? You have to wake up to (realise) how the subtle Self is all, and all are not in God.

The old teaching: It is good to know your Self above and beyond wearisome words first and get free. You do that by a good method (way) and getting a favour-bestowing Gurudev. Such things are considered musts for bright aspirants along the way. Otherwise, you do what you can - firmly aligned to the Goal as clearly as possible for you where you are.

Book Criticism of Many Word . . .

It is not that sound criticism is not good for folks, or not wise, but the most rewarding things to do are hinted at in the last paragraph above.

The Samkhya of Yukteswar

Here is some more around and about Yukteswar's little treatise:

Theistic tendencies [in Samkhya] are developed in the later tradition and the sixteenth-century theologian Vijnanabhiksu, while acknowledging that the system does not need it, argues that the idea of a Lord is not irreconcilable with the earlier Samkhya view. [Gavin Flood, Ith 235]

The Holy Spirit. According to Yukteswar, "the Holy Ghost is "Kutastha Chaitanya . . . Purushottama" [Hos 26].

Kutastha is a Sanskrit word with several meanings. The word is made from kuta, the summit; stha, standing: standing on the peak, is a Sanskrit term with several meanings. As a philosophical term it suggests "holding the highest position", and is often used as another name for synonym for Isvara (Lord of Light). Another meaning: "Who pervades all, supports all, and yet undergoes no transformation." In yet another sense it refers to the consort of Vishnu. Yukteswar's guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, refers to Kutastha in several places, such as "The Ishvara in the Kutastha is untouched by the ignorance and the products." "By abiding in the Kutastha, mind becomes pure. This leads to various Anima, etc., siddhis - special abilities". " . . . siddhis and samadhis are attained. The knowledge of the space and time is also attained." [Ysl]

Then, on the other hand it refers specifically to the area between the eyebrows, an entry to higher states of mind. By sustained focus on that area, wisdom comes, for one thing. Yukteswar's disciple Yogananda calls Kutastha a "universal Christ Consciousness" and "divine guiding Intelligence". [Ak 470-71, 297].

Purushottama is another Sanskrit word. It means "Supreme Purusha", "Supreme Being". It is also one of the names of Rama, the God of some Hindus. [Wikipedia]

The Holy Ghost of the New Testament on the other hand has many other hallmarks, and is regarded as something exclusive for Christians, but that is far from all there is to say about a cause of speaking in tongues. People have done so from long before the advent of Christianity, for example in ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. [Speaking in tongues].

In meeting with Yukteswar's bridging attempt between the New Testament's Holy Spirit and Kutastha Chaitanya . . . Purushottama it might be good to see what the Gospel of John says about the Holy Spirit too. [The Holy Spirit in John].

At the end of Yukteswar's treatise his conclusion comes: Man can fully comprehend the Eternal Spirit when he has comprehended that his Self is nothing but a mere idea, a vain idea. It comes very close to saying, "When you are nothing, then you are dissolved and can really see!" - that is, then the bright one

fully comprehends Eternal Spirit, the Father, the only Real Substance, as Unit, the Perfect Whole, and his Self as nothing but a mere idea resting on a fragment of the Spiritual Light thereof. Man, thus comprehending, abandons altogether the vain idea of the separate existence of his own Self and becomes unified with Him, the Eternal Spirit, God the Father. This unification with God is Kaivalya, the ultimate goal of man, as explained in this treatise. [Hos 96]

Then, when you have sacrificed yourself by performing penance in a proper way, you get unified with the Father, he says. The problem: If you lose yourself, there is at the "last stage" only a vain idea left of you to do the uniting. Perhaps it is good to think twice. Advaita Vedanta holds another view than the uniting view of the dualistically tinged schools, like Samkhya. Advaita teaches that the self and the Whole (Brahman) is the Same. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Advaita Vedanta"]

Compare if you will: God the Father in the gospels.

The New Testament does not say that man is nothing or should seek to become nothing. "What is man . . .? You made him a little lower than God [the heavenly beings]; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet." [Psalm 8:4-6]. The same verse appears in Hebrews 2:6-8 with "You made him a little [or for a little while] lower than the angels".

That to be put right with God is better than being wiped out in hell and so on, is a cornerstone in a gospel message of Jesus: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Matthew 10:28]."

Yukteswar's First Sutra

The first sutra (literally: thread, i.e., aphorism) of Yukteswar in Chapter 1 runs like this in translation: "Parambrahma (Spirit or God) is everlasting, complete, without beginning or end. It is one, invisible Being [Hos 21]." The translation has been provided by SRF [Hos 21n].

Some clarifications could do good:

We are into an exposition of Samkhya (also: Samkhya) philosophy, where traditionally "the existence of a god is not hypothesized" [Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. "Samkhya"]. However, Yukteswar's orientation is that of the less known, more recent variant of theistic Samkhya, although he does not say it out loud. This theistic Samkhya variant may be rather indiscernible from orthodox Yoga philosophy, since the main difference between atheistic Samkhya and Yoga concerns the posited God (Lord) in Yoga. Yukteswar's exposition is in effect of Yoga philosophy. Below are the reasons for saying so:

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy says the Samkhya philosophy admits of two ultimate realities, namely, purusha and prakriti, which exist independently of each other. Eternal consciousness is the very essence of purusha, the self that goes beyond the world of objects. Samkhya further teaches that there are many different selves related to different bodies. The nature and methods of the spiritual training necessary for self-realization have been elabored in the Yoga philosophy. Yoga philosophy is closely allied to the Samkhya. [Wo 39,42 passim]

"It mostly accepts the epistemology and the metaphysics of the Samkhya with its twenty-five principles, but admits also the existence of God." [Wo 43]

Thus, the Yoga philosophical system of Hinduism allows for God, and the yoga system is closely allied to Samkhya. God of the Yoga system (of Patanjali) is Ishwar (Iswara), "Light-God."

Samkhya got its classical form and expression in the Samkhya-karikas by Isvarakrisna (c. 3rd century AD). Samkhya enumerates proposed constituents of the cosmos, and Samkhya-like speculations are found in early Jain, Buddhist and Hindu texts that some call brahmanical speculations. These and medical speculation are thought to arise out of a common ideological context where samhkya-like enumeration of the categories (of the cosmos) is central, writes Gavin Flood [Ith 232].

Flood also finds there are striking parallells between the later Samkhya philosophy, medical systems of Ayurveda, and Buddhist systems. And the earliest enumeration of cosmic principles in the brahmanical tradition comes with the Chandogya Upanishad. The enumeration of categories is also found in the Katha Upanishad and Svetasvatara Upanishad. Also, presystematic listings of elements of experience and world are found in the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita, which forms a part of the Mahabharata [Ith 233-34].

Flood further writes:

Samkhya is also an an atheistic system, whereas the yoga darsana [philosophical Yoga system] admits of the idea of God or the Lord (Isvara) as a special kind of self (purusa) which has never been entangled in prakriti [matter, the universal and subtle (i.e., unmanifest) matter, or nature] . . . These theistic tendencies are developed in the later tradition and the sixteenth-century theologian Vijnanabhiksu, while acknowledging that the system does not need it, argues that the idea of a Lord is not irreconcilable with the earlier Samkhya view. [Gavin Flood, Ith 235]

The Yoga philosophy adapts to the Samkhya enumerations of tattvas, elements, adds room for the God concept, and says how to Being is attained. Yukteswar does all of it in his book. According to the duck test, "If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it might as well be a duck," his treatise is a work of Yoga philosopy by another name.

A Map

Samkhya holds the belief that there are many separate purushas ("selves"). When a purusha (at first without an object) draws to itself prakriti forms or facets, the higher mind (also called the mahat, "great one" or "spiritual awareness", or buddhi) is first evolved. Next a deep ego consciousness (ahamkara) is evolved. The ego consciousness is faceted into five gross elements (space, air, fire, water, earth), five subtle (fine) elements (sound, touch, sight, taste, smell), five organs of perception (with which to hear, touch, see, taste, smell), and five organs of activity (with which to speak, grasp, move, procreate, evacuate), and mind (manas). See the figure.

Samkhya
Figure: The twenty-five Samkhya tattwas (constituents)

Yukteswar enumerates twenty-five elements (principles, tattvas) from the Samkhya philosophy. He accepts a God, a Supreme Being, which atheistic Samkhya has not fitted into its special cosmological system, but the Yoga system of philosophy does: it adds a divine entity, just as Yukteswar. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Samkhya" contains more details and aspects]

So Yukteswar adds one Yoga concept, that of a Divine Being, to Samkhya's enumeration of principles. He stands for methods of the spiritual training aiming at self-realization that are roughly explained in the Yoga philosophy of Patanjali. The Yoga school of Patanjali accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic. Further it is generally seen as the practice while Samkhya is the theory. Patanjali Yoga stands for regular, individual effort in liberating oneself from worldly concerns. The parallels between Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that "the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord. . ." And the intimate relationship between Samkhya and Yoga is explained by Heinrich Zimmer in his Philosophies of India [Phi].

Is Kaivalya, Aloofness, His Goal?

There are depths and subtleties in Indian philosophies.

The title and last part of Yukteswar's book show that liberation is "aloneness", or "aloofness" kaivalya, which is a Samkhya term. The kaivalya (separatedness) means liberation from "the wheel of transmigration" in Patanjali's yoga system [Ith 97].

Yet in Samkhya, kaivalya (liberation) is

the discriminative knowledge that pure consciousness is eternally distinct from primordial matter; there is only a proximity between them . . . Discrimination allows consciousness to distinguish the self from what is not the self, and so to perceive that the self was never actually bound to matter. This self is transcendent, the silent witness behind the embodied subject of first-person predicates . . . in the Samkhya system the dualism is between the self (purusha) and matter which embraces what in traditional western philosophy has been called 'mind' . . . the true self is beyond. [Gavin Flood, Ith 234]

Since the self defined above is utterly outside the realm of the world and its definitions, discrimination will have nothing to work on to get into the self. The self is not to be found through splendid discrimination, in other words. That may be assented through logic. Flood overlooks or ignores this sweet and neat little point; that discrimination lacks the needed conditions or premises and stuff to accomplish what old thinkers maintained it could.

Yukteswar presents kaivalya (the soul's "divorce" from the universe) as liberation, as the goal. What he further puts into the ancient term, and whether he appears to side more with Patanjali than with Kapila (the accredited founder of Samkhya), may have to wait for a while for a discussion.

"The one religious consequence of the Samkhya-Yoga is an emphasis on austere asceticism and a turning away from [many] ritualistic elements . . . Though they continue to remain as an integral part of the Hindu faith, no major religious order thrived on the basis of these philosophies," says the encyclopaedia. [EB "Indian philosophy"]

Yukteswar's stand, on the other hand, is that strict control according to the twin philosophies Samkhya and yoga, yields gratifying happiness [Ay ch. 14].

Both science and philosophy can be misused. Fair treatment is fit for both. Also, what is beyond concepts, what transcends them, may not be well caught by them either, even though it is experienced. Higher yoga aims at that.

Contents


Swami Sri Yukteswar writings and comments, Literature  

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Man's Eternal Quest. SRF. Los Angeles, 1975.

Alk: Beck, Thomas: Astrologisk leksikon. Teknologisk forlag. Oslo, 1993.

Aso: Asimov, Isaak: Om tall. Dreyer. Oslo, 1980.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946. Online.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Yearly.

Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1981.

Hom: Berne, Eric: What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny. Bantam. New York, 1973.

Hos: Yukteswar, sw: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.

Mas: SRF: Self-Realization Fellowship: Golden Anniversary. SRF. Los Angeles, 1970.

Maso: Mayo, Jeff: Astrology. Rev ed. Hodder and Stoughton. Sevenoaks, 1979.

Mux: Bühler, G. tr: The Laws of Manu. Banarsidass (Reprint from Oxford University's 1886-edition). Delhi,1984.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1971.

Phi: Zimmer, Heinrich Robert. Philosophies of India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Sayings of Yogananda. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1958.

Scf: Yogananda, Paramahansa: Scientific Healing Affirmations. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1958.

Scp: Yogananda, Paramahansa: The Science of Religion. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1953.

Sob: Self-Realization Fellowship: Paramahansa Yogananda in Memoriam. SRF. Los Angeles, 1958.

Ssi: Müller, Fritz Max. Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga; Naya and Vaiseshika Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003.

Tu: Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads. London: Penguin Books, 1965.

Viom: Jolly, Julius tr: The Institutes of Vishnu. Banarsidass. Delhi, 1965.

Ysl: Bhattacharya, Jogesh Chandra. Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahashaya. Kadamtala, Howrah: Shrigurudham (Ghosh), 1964.

Whip: Yogananda, Paramahansa: How You Can Talk with God. SRF. Los Angeles, 1969.

Wo: Chatterjee, Satischandra, and Dhirendramohan Datta. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 7th ed. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1968.

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