THE UNION OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES.
"All partitions of knowledge should be accepted, rather for lines to mark and distinguish than for sections to divide, and separate, so that the continuance and entirety of knowledge be preserved." – Bacon.
This saying of the greatest and wisest man of his age has now greater application in these days and in the land of Bharata, than it was in Bacon's own days. It brings out clearly enough what the purpose and utmost scope of all knowledge can be, and the true principle of toleration and liberalism that ought to guide us in our search after knowledge and the ascertainment of truth. Unless we carefully sift and see what each is, which is placed before us as knowledge and truth and for our acceptance, and mark their lines of similarity and difference, we will gradually emerge into a condition of intellectual color-blindness; we cease to know what is color and what is knowledge and what is truth; and the final result is an intellectual and moral atrophy and death. When in, therefore, seeking to avoid such a catastrophe and suicide, we indulge in moral and intellectual disquisitions, the caution has to be borne in mind also that such differences in thought should never divide people in their mutual sympathies and their aspirations in the pursuit of the common good. There is no necessity at all for angry discussions or acrimonious language. Whatever the capabilities of the human mind may be, which may yet remain hidden, yet the human mind is in a sense limited. The laws of thought can be determined positively, and they are as fixed as possible. We can only think on a particular question in a particular number of modes and no more, which in number, in their permutations and combinations, is fully exhibited. Difference in point of time, in clime and in nationality have not affected thought in the least. People have given expression to the same moral sentiments, the same feelings; and the same beauties in nature, and the similarities and the disparities that may exist, have been minutely noted by the poets of all lands. As such, it would not surprise us if the same theories about some of the grand problems of human existence have been discussed and held since man began to ask himself those questions, and for ages to come, also the same theories will endure. The same stories have been told and the same battles have been fought over and over again, but we note also that the honors of the war have often rested and followed the predilections of the people and the eminence of the story teller for the time being. Theories and Schools of Philosophy have had each its own hey-day of life and glory, and each has had its fall, and a subsequent resurrection. Even in the course of a single generation, we see a thinker who is accounted as the greatest Philosopher of the day, as one who has revolutionized all thought and philosophy, discounted very much and pale before the rising stars, whose fads take the popular fancy. By these observations, we do not mean to discourage all theorizing but only to show the uselessness of any dogmatism upon any points, and we, more than ever hold that all partitions of knowledge are useful and should be accepted for consideration. We have ventured upon these observations as in these days, and in this land, what is considered as knowledge and gnanam and philosophy is all seeking a narrow groove and partaking of an one-sided character, and thereby tending to obliterate thought, ignoring the thin and delicate partitions obtaining between different kinds of knowledge and the consequences could not altogether be beneficial. This process of ignorance and obliteration has been going on for some time past, and has been mainly assisted by false or queer notions of what constitutes toleration and universalism. The habit of trying to defend everything and explain away everything from one's own preconceived point of view is clearly a pernicious habit intellectually and morally. The vain search after a fancied unity has ended in a snare often-times; and a similar attempt now a days to reduce every view to one view is purely a procrustean method and fallacious in the extreme. Where is the good of such a procedure? There could neither be profit nor pleasure in seeking such similarities and uniformities in things that are essentially different. Will there be any good in such knowledge and reasoning as this? Black is the same as read, because both are colors. A crow is the same thing as ink, as both are black. Such attempted unification of knowledge is purely delusive and of no moment whatever. When again, commentators say and contend that a certain passage only bears, out their interpretation and no other and that each one's own interpretation is the best, yet it must stand to common sense that these views could not all be correct nor could the author have intended all these meanings himself. Our Hindu commentators have often taken the greatest liberties with their author and they have often proved the worst offenders in forcing meanings upon words and passages which they and the context clearly show they do not bear. Yet we are often asked by some very tolerant people to accept every view as truth and to adopt their view as the greatest truth of all. As many of these ancient books are written and commented on in an obsolete tongue and which very few could find time and trouble to master, this delusion has been kept up by a few, and people have often been led by the use of certain charmed names. But the illusions begin to be dispelled, as we get to understand what the real text is, in plain literal language, thanks to the labors of European Scholars, and without encumbering ourselves as to what this commentator and that commentator says. And some of these scholars and translators have been quite honest and outspoken in what they think as the true view as borne out by the text. And no scholar has as yet come forward to controvert the view taken by Dr. Thibaut as to how far Sankara's views are borne out by the text of the Vedanta Sutras. We hope to discuss these, in course of time, as the translation of Srikanta Bhashya, we are publishing proceeds apace, by comparing and contrasting these; it being only borne in mind now that Srikantha was the elder contemporary of Sankara and the commentary of the former is the oldest of all those on the Vedanta Sutras now extant. We however propose to discuss in this article the questions in connection with the Bhagavad Gita which Mr. Charles Johnstone has raised in his valuable paper we extracted in our last, from the Madras Mail, "The Union of Indian Philosophies." He puts himself the question to which of the three Schools of Indian Philosophy - Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta, this book belongs, and says that his off-hand answer would be that it is undoubtedly one of the text books of the Vedanta , school, one of the weightiest of them; and yet, for all this, he thinks that there are other aspects of the Gita, and that there is very much in them which belongs to the Sankhya, and even more that is the property of the Yoga school; and he explains below how the Gita beginning with a ballad on Krishna and Arjuna, gradually expanded itself into its present form, incorporating into itself all the teachings of the Upanishads and the teachings of the Sankhya and Yoga schools, together with puranic episodes of the transfiguration, which in the opinion of this writer 'reproduces all that grim and gruesome ugliness of many armed Gods, with terrible teeth, which the Puranas have preserved most probably from the wild faiths of the dark aboriginals and demon worshippers of Southern India. We will deal with this last statement, which is a pure fiction later on; and the point we wish to draw particular attention to is this, that it has struck the writer as new and he gives it as new to the ignorant world that the Gita does not represent only Vedanta. To the Indian who knows anything of Indian Philosophy, this could not be news at all, as all the modern Indian schools, including Dwaita and Visishitadwaita and Suddhadvaita, claim the book as an authority and have commented on it too. But the European who has learnt to read the books of one school of philosophy only (all the books translated till now in English are books and commentaries of the Vedanta School), knows nothing of any other school of philosophy existing in India and what authorities they had, and has gradually come to deny the existence of even such; and young Indians educated in English deriving all their pabulum from such source have also been ignorant of any other phases of Indian Philosophy. We well remember an Indian graduate in arts and law ask us, if there was any such thing as a special school of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy. Of course, he wears Vibhuti and Rudraksha and worships Siva and he knows that the Great Guru Sankara was an avatar of Siva Himself and all the English books that treated of Hinduism only talked of the Vedanta Philosophy and his surprise and ignorance as such were quite natural. But as a result of the great upheaval that is going on, and the greater attention that is paid to the study of our philosophic and religious literature, even our own people have been slowly waking up to the truth of things. That stoutest adherent of Vedanta, the editor of the Light of the East was the first to yield and to point out in his articles on the 'Ancient Sankhya System' that the Gita expounded also the Sankhya system, though he tries to make an olla podrida of it by saying that Vedanta is Sankhya and Sankhya is Vedanta - that the Gita does not postulate many Purushas (souls). A Madras Professor declared in the Pachaiappa's Hall that in some of the special doctrines of the Vedanta, such as the doctrine of Maya, and the identity of the human Soul and the Supreme Soul etc., the Gita is silent. And our brother of the Brahmavadin also affirms in his editorial on 'Maya,' dated 15th August 1896, after stating that the word Maya scarcely occurs in the principal , and where it does occur, it seems to be used mostly in the old Vedic sense of power or creative power, declares, that "on the whole the attitude of the Bhagavad Gita towards Maya is similar to that of the ; and it is rather difficult to evolve out of it the later Vedantic sense," of illusion) or delusion.
And when it is admitted also that the Buddhists were the first to develop the Maya theory of illusory nothings, who on that account were called Mayavadins by the other Hindus, and that Sankara only refined this idea, meaning an illusory nothing, into meaning a phenomenal something, though some of his later followers even went so far as to forget Sankara's teaching as to revert to the Buddhist idea of a blank negation and hence were called cryto-Bhuddhists (Prachchanna Bhaudhas), (vide p. 297-Vol. Brahmavadin and Max Muller's lectures on Vedanta), and our brother's opinion being merely that in the Vedas and Upanishads and Gita, we have merely the germs of the later system of thought out of which was elaborated the Vedantic theory of Maya, - a process of double distillation - the point is even worthwhile considering whether Gita has got anything to do with the Vedanta at all. And it can also be positively proved that it has no such connection. Today we venture to go no further than what is admitted by the other side that Gita contains the exposition of other schools of philosophy which according to Mr. Charles Johnstone, postulates the reality and eternality of matter (Prakriti) and spirit (Purusha) and that the Purushas are without number and that there is one Supreme Spirit different from the souls.
In understanding the word Sankhya as used in the Gita our writer falls into a mistake like many others that it means the Philosophy as expounded in the Sankhya School of Philosophy which is attributed to the Sage Kabila. We have shown in our article on 'Another Side' (vide pp. 21 to 34) that it meant no such thing, that it meant merely, a theory or a system or a philosophy or knowledge and that the Gita instead of having anything to do with Kabila's Sankhya distinctly repudiates it and goes on to postulate its own differences, and this we showed by quoting several passages and that the proper name of the system evolved in the Gita is 'Seshwara Sankhya,' as distinguished from Nireshwara Sankhya of Kabila. To say that this philosophy or the other grew out of this or that is pure fallacy, unless we have real historical evidences about it. We might propound a riddle whether Theism or Atheism was first and which of these rose out of the other. You might argue that Theism was next and grew out of Atheism, as materialists (Lokayitas) only admit the eternality of matter and would not admit of the existence of any other padartha.
And you might say they came next because they denied the existence of God admitted by Theists. Yet such is the argument covered up in statements frequently made that, of the six systems of Philosophy, one was first and the other arose out of it. They do not at all refer to any historical growth or chronological order. Even in the days of Rig Veda they believed in Gods and in one God, and we presume there were unbelievers also. Mr. Johnstone is also wrong in saying that the postulate of three powers of nature - we presume he means Satva, Rajas and Tamas - is peculiar to the Sankhya, as also the divisions of gnatha, gneyam and gnanam. We fail to understand what he means by Sankhya Yoga reconciler. Sankhya, if Kabila's (Pure atheism) postulated no God and Yoga postulated God. And is there any meaning where one talks of a book reconciling Atheism and Theism? And of course, another writer talks similarly of Vedanta-Sankhya reconciler. In every school there are certain postulates or padarthas which are affirmed and some which are denied. Some postulate only one padartha, some two, some three and some none, and are we to talk of reconciling these, one with the other, simply because one of the postulates, very often things and their qualities which could not be denied by any one, is common to all or some? This is often the kind of writing that passes for sound knowledge and liberalism and universal philosophy. We dare say the Vedanta as understood by Sankara was not even in existence at the time of the battle of Kurukshetra nor was it probably known to the writer of the Mahabharata and Gita, in his days whenever he wrote it. The whole Mahabharata has to be studied to know what the teaching of Gita is and in its historical surroundings. The phrase 'Sankhya and Yoga' is used throughout the Mahabharata as often as possible and in such conjunctions where the meaning is unmistakable as referring to the postulate of a Supreme Being.* If Kabila † is praised by Krishna as the greatest among sages, it is because the same book Mahabharata shows elsewhere, how Kabila from being an atheist was afterwards converted to the knowledge of God, and as all such converts, he obtained greater glorification at the hand of his quondam opponents. And as we have shown elsewhere that the Gita is a clear controversial treatise, he could not do better than cite Kabila himself, who gave up his former faith, in refutation of the school of Atheistic Sankhya. Scholars have observed how the writer of the Uttara Mimamsa Sariraka Sutras spends all his energy and skill in refuting the Sankhya and only casually notices the other schools, it being the reason that in the days of Vyasa and Krishna the Atheistic Sankhya school was the most predominant, in the same way as in later times, Buddhism and Jainism came to have a larger share of treatment in the hands of Hindu saints and writers. It has also to be noticed that the word Vedanta nowhere occurs in the Gita or other Upanishads as meaning Sankara's system and the Brahmavadin has, as such, taken a broader platform, in properly including under the term, both Advaita of Sankara, the Dvaita and Visishtadvaita systems and we now hear of Advaita Vedanta, Dvaita Vedanta etc., though the Western habit of calling Sankara's system as Vedanta is still used confusingly enough by people, as in the passage we quoted above from the Brahmavadin 'the later Vedantic sense.' (The other Indian schools, be it noted, do not indeed call Sankara's system Vedanta or Advaita but have other names for it).
[* c.f. The following passages in the Anucasana Parva.
"I seek the protection of Him whom the Sankhyas describe and the Yogins think of as the Supreme, the foremost, the Purusha, the Pervader of all things and the Master of all existent objects" &c. &c.
"I solicit boons from Him who cannot be comprehended by argument, who represents the object of the Sankhya and the Yoga systems of Philosophy and who transcends all things, and whom all persons conversant with the topics of enquiry worship and adore."
"That which is Supreme Brahman, that which is the highest entity, that which is the end of both the Sankhyas and the Yogins, is without doubt identical with thee."
The same Parva pp. 140 and 141. P. C. Roy's edition.
"After this, Kabila, who promulgated the doctrines that go by the name of Sankhya, and who is honored by the gods themselves said - I adored Bhava with great devotion for many lives together. The illustrious deity at last became gratified with me and gave me knowledge that is capable of aiding the acquirer in getting over rebirth."
The Temple at the foot of Tirupati hill is called Kabileshwara and is the place where tradition says the sage worshipped Bava or Siva.]
Mr. Johnstone no doubt says that Krishna quotes directly from many Upanishads (one writer is carried away by his veneration for Gita to say that the Upanishads quote from the Gita!) and a number of verses, notably in the second book (we should like to know very much what they are), which have the true ring of the old sacred teachings, and yet art not in them (in which?) as they now stand. And then he airs his theory that Vedanta is the peculiar birth-right of the Kshatriyas and not of Brahmans. The reason why this unacknowledged quotations in the Gita and other similar books are found, is that every Brahman in the olden days had committed to memory the whole of the Vedas and Vedanta (Upanishads) and as such when they wrote and when they spoke, these old thoughts and verses very naturally flowed from their pen and their mouths,* and it is never the habit of the Indian scholar to quote his authority, chapter and verse. And we come to the fact that the whole of the chapters 9, 10 and 11 of the Gita is a mere reproduction and a short abstract of that central portion of the whole Vedas, called the Catarudriya of the Yajur Veda. What is called transfiguration is the Visvaswarupa Darsna, or the vision of the lord as the All, as manifested in the whole universe.
[* We knew a Tamil Scholar who would gossip for hours together, the whole conversation interlarded with quotations from Kural and Naladiyar and an ordinary listener could not recognize that he was quoting at all.]
One and all, the objects in the whole universe, good, bad, sat, asat, high and low, animate, inanimate are all named in succession and God is identified with all these and it is pointed out that He is not all these and above all these, "the soul of all things, the creator of all things, the pervader of all things" (Visvatmane Visva srije visvam avritiya thishthate). This catarudriyam† ought to be known to every Brahman more or less and it is the portion of the Vedas which is recited in the temples every day. The praise of the catarudriyam occurs throughout the Mahabharata, and most in Drona and Anucasana Parvas, and these parvas dealing as they do with various visions of God (Viswasarupa Darsana) as granted to Rishis, Upamanyu, Vyasa, Narada, Kabila, and Krishna himself on other occasions, contain the similar reproductions of the catarudriya as in chapters 9 to 11 of the Gita. What is more important to be noted is that in the case of Krishna, he had got the teaching from Upamanyu Maharishi, and after initiation (Diksha) into this mystery teaching and performance of tapas, he gets to see the vision himself, and he describes it as follows (vide page 87 to 91 Anusasanaparva. P. C. Roy's translation).
[† Sri Krishna himself says "Hear from me, O King, the catarudriya, which, when risen in the morning, I repeat with joined hands. The great devotee, Prajapati created that prayer at the end of his austerity." Anucasana Parva, chapter V.]
"The hair on my head, O son of Kunti, stood on its end, and my eyes expanded with wonder upon beholding Hara, the refuge of all the deities and the dispeller of all their griefs............................ Before me that Lord of all the Gods, viz. Sarva, appeared seated in all his glory. Seeing that lcana had showed Himself to me by being seated in glory before my eyes, the whole universe, with Prajapati to Indra, looked at me. I, however, had not the power to look at Mahadeva. The great Deity then addressed me saying, "Behold, O Krishna and speak to me. Thou hast adored me hundreds and thousands of times. There is no one in the three worlds that is dearer to me than thou." And the praise by Krishna which follows is almost what Arjuna himself hymned about Krishna. Vyasa meeting Aswathama after his final defeat tells him also that Krishna and Arjuna had worshipped the Lord hundreds and thousands of times. And does not this explain Krishna's own words in the Gita that he and Arjuna had innumerable births (iv. 5).
What we wish to point out is that this transfiguration scene with its gruesome description which Mr. Johnstone wants to trace to Puranic legends preserved from South Indian aborigines is, by express text and by the authority of Krishna himself traced to the second Veda; and to say that the Yajur Veda, the Central portion* of this Veda, should copy the holiest portion of the whole Vedas, as believed by the contemporaries and predecessors of Krishna, from the demonology of the South Indians, could only be a parody of truth; and if this be true, this demonology of the South Indians, instead of a thing being repugnant must have been glorious indeed, to be copied by the Brahmavadins of Yajur Veda days. Western Scholars have only misread and misunderstood the nature of this transfiguration and Visvarupa mystery, as they have misread the mystic Personality of Rudra or Siva Himself, whose ideal these scholars say, was also copied from the aborigines. To the credit of Mrs. Besant, be it said, she has understood both these mysteries better than any other European. Siva's whole personality, with his eight forms, Ashtamuhurtams (see page 220 of the Siddhanta Deepika Vol. I, for full description)
[ * It is believed and it is a fact that the Panchatchara Mantra of the modern Hinduism is found in the very middle of the three Vedas, Rig, Yajur and Saman, which fact is set forth in the following Tamil verse.
c.f. The whole catarudriya passage quoted in sec. II. chap III. vol. vi, Muir's Sanskrit texts.]
earth, fire, air etc., and his three eyes, as Soma, Surya and Agni, and His Head as Akasa, and his eight arms as the eight cardinal points, his feet as Padala, and the sky as his garment, Digambara, and himself, a Nirvani and living in cemeteries and yet with his Sakti, Uma, a Yogi yet a Bhogi, all these give a conception of the supreme Majesty of the Supreme Being which, no doubt, nobody can look up in the face. Does any ordinary person dare to look up nature's secrets and nature's ways in the process of destruction and creation and sustentation? If so, he will be a bold man, a great man. Strip nature of its outside smooth and fragrant cloak and what do you see inside? The picture is ugly, dirty and gruesome. Yet the scientist perceives all this with perfect equanimity, nay with very great pleasure. A small drop of water discloses to the microscopic examination multitudes of living germs, and these fight with one another, devour each other with great avidity. We drink the water. Plants drink up the water. Animals eat the plants, insects and animals devour one another. Man, the greatest monster, devours all. There is thus constant struggle of life and death going on in nature. And when this nature is, as thus, exposed to view in the transfiguration, and Arjuna sees before him this havoc, in the Person of the Supreme as the Destroyer, ('Devourer' of Katha Upanishad) (and be it remembered that this Viswarupa Darsan is more gruesome in Gita no doubt, than similar ones presented in the Anucasana Parva, as Krishna's whole burden of advice in the Gita is simply to force Arjuna to fight and kill his foes, and to conquer his repugnance), a remark that it is derived from Puranic legends and aboriginal practices is altogether out of place. We hope to pursue this subject on a future occasion.
In old India, as elsewhere, the minds of the leading men were of many complexions; so that we have great idealists, great thinkers of the atomic school, great nihilists, and great preachers of doctrines wholly agnostic. It is the custom to gather a certain group of these teachings together, with the title of the Six Philosophies; while all others, considered as heterodox, are outside the pale of sympathy, and, therefore, to be ignored. Chiefest among the outcast philosophies is the doctrine of Prince Siddhartha, called also Shakya Muni, and Gautama Buddha. Of the others, it would be hard to find many students of more than three - namely, the Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga: while the Vaiseshika, Nyaya, and first Mimamsa are little more than a name, even to professed students of Indian thought. They have their followers, doubtless; but there has not been found one among them of such mental force as to give them a modern expression, or to show that they bear any message to the modern world. We shall speak, here, only of the three most popular among the orthodox schools: and this chiefly in connection with a single noteworthy book, - the Bhagavat Gita, or "Songs of the Master." If we were asked, off hand, to which of the three schools the Bhagavat Gita belonged, we should most likely answer, off-hand, that it was, undoubtedly a text-book of the Vedanta, and indeed one of the weightiest works of the Vedanta School. For is it not commented on by the Great Sankara, chiefest light of the Vedanta, and does he not quote from it as of divine authority, a fully inspired scripture?
Yet, for all this, I think there are other aspects of the Bhagavat Gita which show that this answer is too simple; and that, while the Songs of the Master undoubtedly form a bulwark of Vedantic orthodoxy, there is very much in them which belongs to the Sankhya, and even more that is the property of the Yoga School. It seems pretty certain that the Bhagavat Gita has grown up gradually, beginning with a ballad on Krishna and Arjuna, much of which is preserved in the first book, and which suggests all through, the burden of Krishna's admonition: Therefore fight, Oh son of Kunti! It seems likely that the next element in the structure of the Bhagavat Gita is drawn from the great Upanishads, the Katha Upanishad more especially. And this suggests a very interesting thought; side by side with many direct quotations from the Upanishads in our possession, there are a number of verses, notably in the second book, which have the true ring of the old sacred teachings, and yet are not in them as they now stand. And this suggests that we have only fragments; that there was once much more, in the form of verses and stones, which made up the mystery teaching of the Rajput Kings, - that secret doctrine spoken of so clearly in the Upanishads themselves as the jealously guarded possession of Kshatriya race. The fourth book of the Bhagavat Gita fully endorses this idea, since Krishna traces his doctrine back through the Rajput sages to the solar King, Ikshvaku, to Manu,)the Kshatriya, and finally to the sun, the genius of the Rajput race. And this, in connection with that teaching of successive re-births, which, we know from the two greatest Upanishads, was the central point of the royal doctrine. So we are inclined to suggest that we have in many verses of the Bhagavat Gita, additional portions of the old mystery doctrine, parts of which form the great Upanishads. And it is quite credible that Krishna, - whom we believe to be as truly historical as Julius Cesar, - as an initiate in these doctrines did actually quote to Arjuna a series of verses from the mystery teaching, and that these verses are faithfully preserved for us to the present day. However that may be, there the verses are: a series of verses from the Upanishads, had a second series, entirely resembling these in style and thought. As a third element in the Bhagavat Gita we have the Puranic episode of the transfiguration, and, we must say, it reproduces all that grim and gruesome ugliness of many armed gods, with terrible teeth, which the puranas have preserved most probably from the wild faiths of the dark aboriginals and demon worshippers of Southern India.
Finally, there is a very important element, into the midst of which the episode of the transfiguration is forcibly wedged; and of this element we shall more especially speak. It consists of the characteristic Sankhya doctrine of the three potencies of Nature completely developed along physical, mental, and moral lines. A word about this doctrine, which we may, with great likelihood, refer to Kapila himself, the founder of the School. His conception seems to be this; there is the consciousness in us, the spirit, the perceiver: and, over against this there is Nature, the manifested world. This duality of subject and object has great gulf fixed between its two elements, whose characteristics, wholly and irreconcilably opposed. Of the subject, the spirit, consciousness, we can only say that it perceives. To predicate of consciousness any characteristic drawn from our experience of objects, such for instance as mortality, beginning or end, is to be guilty of a cardinal error. Of Nature, the opposite element of existence, Kapila's teaching, it seems, was something like this; Nature may be divided into three elements: the substance of phenomena; the force of phenomena; and thirdly the dark space or void, in which phenomena take place. Take a simple illustration. The observer, with closed eyes, is the spirit or consciousness, not yet involved in Nature. He opens his eyes, and, instead of the dark space, or void, sees the world of visible objects, or substance, and there is perpetual movement among the things thus observed. This is force. Thus we have the three elements of Nature, - the three qualities, as they are generally called, - which make up the central idea of Kapila's cosmic system, and which are not to be found, in that shape, in any of the oldest Upanishads: they are, therefore, no part of the Vedanta, properly so called, but distinctively Sankhya teachings. Now, these distinctive teachings form a very important part of the Bhagavat Gita, and are woven into many passages, besides the-chief passages already referred to, in the seventeenth and eighteenth books. Thus, as early as the second book, we have a reference to the Sankhya teachings: "The Vedas have the three Nature-powers as their object; but thou, Arjuna become free from the three powers." It is needless to quote the many passages that refer to the same teaching; to the divisions of the knower, the knowing, the known; the doer, the doing, the deed; the gift, the giving, the giver; and so forth, according to the three-Nature-powers. All this is carried out with much intellectual skill, and dialectic acumen: but it has nothing in the world to do with the main motive of the book, - Arjuna's action under the calamity of civil war; and Krishna's assertion of the soul, as the solution of Arjuna's dilemma.
There is also a very important element in the Bhagavad Gita, equally characteristic of the Yoga school, whose final exponent, though not, in all probability, its founder, was Patanjali, the author of the commentary on Panini's grammar, who lived, it is believed, some three centuries before our era. We do not regard the directions as to choosing a lonely place, a fawn-skin seat, over sprinkled kusha grass, and the fixing of the attention on the tip of the nose, as necessarily, or most characteristically belonging to the Yoga school, though they are undoubtedly important elements in that teaching. What seems more vital is the moral concept of action with disinterestedness, of action without attachment, according to the primary motion of the will; this teaching, it seems to us, is at once characteristic of the Yoga system, and foreign to the spirit of the Upanishads; for the Upanishads, so high is their ideal, are not greatly concerned with fallen man or the means of his redemption. They look on man as an immortal spirit, already free and mighty, and therefore needing no redemption. Man, needing to be redeemed, is a later thought; one springing from a more self-conscious age.
Now the connection of this thought with the Sankhya philosophy is obvious. It regards man, the spirit, as ensnared by Nature, and consequently as needing release and, for the Sankhya school, this release comes through an effort of intellectual insight. But this concept, man saved by intellect, is essentially untrue to life, where man lives not by intellect alone, or even chiefly, but by the will; and it became necessary, granting our fall, to find a way of salvation, of redemption through the will. This way is the Yoga philosophy. It is the natural counterpart and completion of the Sankhya and has always been so regarded, The pure spirit of the over-intellectual Sankhya becomes Lord of the more religious Yoga; - using religion in the sense of redemption to the will. But, though thus complementary, the two systems might easily come to be considered as opposing each other; and it seems to be part of the mission of the Bhagavat Gita - or rather, of certain passages forcibly imported into it, to reconcile the Sankhya and the Yoga once for all, and to blend these two with the Vedanta.
We need only quote two passages, which are obviously due to the Sankhya - Yoga reconciler. The first is dragged into the middle of the following sentence, and evidently has no true place there: "If slain, thou shalt attain to heaven; or conquering, thou shalt inherit the land. Therefore rise, son of Kunti, firmly resolved for the fight. Holding as equal, good and ill-fortune, gain and loss, victory and defeat, gird thyself for the fight, and thou shall not incur sin. And thus there shall be no loss of ground, nor does any defeat exist; a little of this law saves from great fear;" - the law, namely, that the slain in battle go to Paradise. Now into the midst of this complete and continuous passage has been inserted this verse: "This understanding is declared according to Sankhya hear it now, according to Yoga." Needless to say, the last part of it has as little to do with the Yoga philosophy as the first has with the Sankhya. Then again, in the next book, the third: "Two rules are laid down by me: salvation by intellect for the Sankhya; salvation by works for the followers of Yoga." So that one part of the Bhagavat Gita is devoted to the reconciliation of these two complementary though rival schools.
[Extract from the Madras Mail, 23rd December 1897 by Charles Johnston, M. R. A. S., B. C. S., RET.]