Questions on Sankhya and Buddhism

Question:  I have studied Sankhya very briefly as part of another course I took at the Hindu University and I have been interested in it ever since. Your notes on the topic are very clear, but I have some questions.

Lesson 12 says: “The appearance of an effect is only its passage from potentiality to actuality.  It needs some helping conditions (sahakari karana) and a sentient person (nimitta karana) to transform.  Is this suggesting that effects only happen when a sentient being is involved?  It seems that such changes occur without the intervention sentient beings.  What am I missing?  But, Purusha is sentient, right?   Maybe it’s the term “person” that is throwing me off.  Yet still, can NO change happen without a sentient person?

Answer: According to Sankhya, change happens when prakriti and purusha (person) come together. Without purusha there is no modification in prakriti. So no change can occur without purusha who is sentient.

Question: You describe change: “When any change is in a potential state, it is called future, when the change is manifest it is called present, when it become latent again, it is called past.  Sankhya does not admit the existence of time as an independent entity.”  I do not understand the second sentence.  Does this means that time is not moving independently of the changes that are occurring?  In other words, if change stops, time does also?  “Time” is really just a way to talk about the constantly changing universe?

Answer: Time does not move, but we feel it by the change in prakriti. In Sankhya, time is not an independent entity. It is the change in prakriti. If you do not perceive change, you do not perceive time. That is why we can perceive time differently. When in a happy situation, time seems to pass quickly. If you cannot sleep at night, time seems to be not passing at all. For our mutual dealings, we have standardized time, not just depending on our feelings. The basis for time on earth is its movement in relation to the sun.

Question: I do not understand what you say about Buddhism.  Buddhism holds to the theory of an ever changing universe.  “But their change has no background.  Every change is absolutely a new one.  And when the change is in the past, the next moment the change is lost absolutely.  There are only passing manifestations of forms and qualities.  There is no underlying substance.”   Does “substance” in this last sentence mean “matter?”  Are we talking “mind only” school here?  And, “every change is absolutely a new one …” does this mean that Buddhism does not believe in the barriers that keep changes from happening in random ways?

Answer: Buddhism has a problem in its theory. If everything is changing at every moment, then how can you remember the change? Unless there is some unchanging experiencer, there is no one to observe the change

Question: I have a follow up question to this point. The question / challenge is this: Suppose you have three marbles – one red, one yellow, one blue. In the next frame of “time” you have a different set, but not ENTIRELY different: one red, one green, one blue. In the next frame again you have a different set, but not entirely different: one red, one green, one purple. In the next frame you again have a different set: one green, one purple, one orange. Etc.

Continuity is maintained from one frame to the next by the marbles which persist from one frame to the next. But still none of the marbles is permanent. If we take the Buddhist theory “nothing is eternal” in this manner, can you disprove it?

Answer: The flaw in the marble example is that the experiencer is never fragmanted like that. You cannot change a part of the experiencer. You as an experiencer are indivisible. The knowledge is obtained by the indivisible experiencer at a point in time and it is he alone who can remember the experience.

For example, if you see a book on table, you say, ” I see a book”.  You do not say that one part of me sees the book and other part of me is ignorant of it. Whenever you know something , right or wrong, you know it as one unit of knower. There are no divisions in the knower. You never feel that one part of you knows and one part is ignorant, or one part of you remembers some experience but another part does not. You either know or remember something or you do not. But this would not be the case of if “I or knower” was made of parts, as in case of your marble example.

If the experiencer changes, one cannot remember the experience. The instrument of experience may change, but not the knower. For example, we may use glasses to see and then we may replace the glasses with a new pair. We can remember what we saw with the old pair because we have not changed. Change is outside the knower.

 

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