Indian philosophers had a long tradition of searching for the Infinite Reality. Their first attempts have been fundamental research in many directions. Broadly speaking they probed the extensive regions of man’s terrestrial globes to find out the basic substance out of which all elements in Nature have come into being. They sought for that one substance which constitutes the inward psychic being in one and all. They also sought to discover the One God who might be considered to be Maker, the Original Being, who had become the deities of the several areas of Nature, man and activities of the entire worlds above, here, and below. The devotion needed for this enterprise was of a rare and arduous quality.
The reasons for these attempts are obviously manifold. Some have sought to know in order to master Nature, man and deities. But it was necessary to know. The story of these enterprises at knowing the reality about Nature revealed a great amount of particular knowledges which pointed towards that one substance out of which all were produced. The problems of knowing were indeed many. The needed appropriate knowledge organs or instruments of knowledge or knowing for knowing the diverse and manifold world. Science grew out of this study of Nature. The attempt to study the knower who tries to know or seeks this knowledge of Nature led to the study of the knower as knower as a psychic being. The knower and known in relation to one another had been an interesting study of cognitive psychology. But the psychic being or knower has other attributes in addition to knowing even as the known or Nature has other attributes that being known, therefore the extension of psychology and science into fields beyond the knowing or knowledge. The nature of knowing had itself pointed out that the principle that is known to be at the back of Nature and the Knower is a higher luminous personality ordering the commerce between these two. This was the Deva or deity that one had to perceive in order to know fully or adequately. In fact the possibility of true knowledge or integral knowledge is on account of the guidance of the deity.
The ancients therefore had instructed that for all veridical knowledge there are three ingredients necessary. In actual practice of knowing they instructed that one should know the seer, who is the Rsi the world that one sees through the seer-vision, the deva or deity who is the presiding power determining that world, and lastly the energy that is pervading that world. The last is the additional fact necessary for the work that could be done with the help of that force.
The Vedic seers (Rsis) provided for the fourfold instruments or powers by which knowledge that is real, integral, and bliss-productive can be had. These are known as Rsis, Lokas, Devas and Chandas. Every one of these has a correspondence or in the human body they are each given a particular location. Thus:
Atri Bhub Agni Gayatri
Bhrgu Bhuvah Vyau Usnih
Kutsa Svar Arka Anustubh
Vasista Mahar Vagisa Brhati
Gautama Jana Varuna Pankti
Kasyapa Tapas Indra Tristubh
Angirasa Satya Visvedevas Jagati
They are integrated and interrelated within the system. Later thinkers had further referred these places to the six psychic cakras (wheels), such as the Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipuraka, Anahata, Visuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara. Which are effective centres of the different powers of the one Kundalini – the power that is secret and occult within the system, the awakening of which is deemed necessary for the realization of Union with the Ultimate Reality.
The Vedic seers had provided that there are of course four ways of knowing, such as pratyaksa, anumana, upamana and sabda (amnaya). But each one of them in order to be true has its application to the respective level of experience. The proper method of knowing and working at a particular level of experience is to utilize the seer, and the deva and the energy necessary for knowing properly or as it is in itself. Though this method was adopted by the seers themselves, the most important use of the fourfold nature of knowing was in the realm of institution. Thus before one ever undertook to do any work of real-cognition or intuition one offered the proper prayer which is the dedicated preparation for knowing-feeling or experience of intuition in all its forms. This appears like a ritual preparation or sacerdotal method, but it was found to be useful and effective in stimulating the Intuitive Way of Knowing.
We have also to consider the difference between the ordinary perceptive way and the intuitive way. In ancient usage there are two roots i) drs & ii) prc: to bring into contact with, join, unite. In usage pasya in the present tense is changed in dadarsa in the past. The transference from one root to the other requires more than a grammatical idiom-explanation. If we consider that seeing is later transformed into darsana or knowing through seeing and an element of memory and former experience goes into the making of a seeing when it becomes knowing through seeing – from nirvikalpaka jnana to savikalpaka-jnana to use the language of later thinkers, then we might be able to explain somewhat the process of grammatical substitution of dars in the place of pasya.
This takes us to another important aspect, of the levels of knowing. From perception we move towards inferential knowledge based on perceptions. We yet depend on our analogical inferences on perceptions. Therefore the passage from pasya to darsana is not unnatural. The past tense-use of the latter root is explained by revealing the latter root to apply only to explanatory of the fact that darsana means anything like an ordinary inferential knowledge based on the perception of the senses.
Darsana seems to have indicated direct Vision without the medium of the sense-organs and even the mind (intellect dependent on the senses).1 It has the reference to the internal intuitive knowing. In fact one passes from the objective knowledge of an object to the subjective knowledge of the same object2, in order to have an integral knowledge. The transition from seeing to knowing as darsana is therefore a movement of thought from its outer consideration to the inner consideration. Here again the transition should not be considered to be the subject’s (knowers) reaction to the object as subject but a knower’s knowledge of the object from the subjective point of the object itself in addition.
1 All knowing is of the mirroring of reality through the senses and mind.
2 Knowledge of an object as it is for itself (subjective) and as it is for others (objective).
The Intuitive or revelatory view of Reality steps beyond the sense-organs and the intellect or manas. It is the pure psychic way and it is through this way the several realisations known as Vidyas had been recorded. It is not exclusively the knowledge of Brahman or the Ultimate One Reality that is the province of intuitive or revelatory knowledge. The great discoveries and inventions of ancient times in the realms of art and architecture, of religious and secular processes of union with the Ultimate or which grant infinite meaning to the particular and finite seem to have been developed with this intuitive knowledge of Nature as well as of man and animal.
The approach to the study of Indian darsanas had in previous medieval periods been from the point of view of sensory seeing and intellectual reason based on these precepts and system-building, and therefore they have done less than justice to the intuitive approach of the darsanas.
Undoubtedly due to the approach undertaken by Gautama Buddha the philosophical method was more or less intellectual in so far as the discovery of the causes of suffering was concerned. The means adopted for overcoming this suffering or for abolishing the causes of suffering were far from intellectual reasoning or dialectics. It was by a dedication of meditation (dhyana) which led to the experience of the state of Nirvana which was equated with non-suffering, bliss, enlightenment, that was of the nature of intuition or vision. The refusal to accept the vedic pramana was more in respect of the means adopted to get rid of human suffering, namely, the yajnas, sacrifices that involved avoidable suffering to other creatures who are not involved in one’s own suffering or one’s own release. Vicarious sacrifices are unfruitful in securing liberation.
The materialistic view denied the reign of intuition or the validity of the Veda or scripture and was devoted to the perceptual deliverances in regard to matters of every day. The materialist did not think that perception was insufficient for man, nor did he require intuition in respect of perceived things and human activities. It is not however possible to rule out all intuition even by them especially when such intuition becomes vision-stimulating perception.
The other darsanas or Visions were aware of this fourth Way of knowing and though they might have differed in respect of the extent to which they have to take its help, they did not wholly discard it. The more important point however in darsanas is that there is just a possibility of trying to see the world of Reality, comprising Nature, Self and God from the standpoint of Intuition or Vision, rather than utilize the lower powers for knowing them only partially or phenomenally.
Noumenal knowledge of each area of experience could however be misinterpreted on the basis of certain texts or intuitional statements in the Upanishads or other similar literature, though the Upanishads have been claimed to be of a unique order.
We have therefore to consider one point of great interest whether the six darsanas of Gautama, Kanada, Kapila, Patanjali, Jaimini and Badarayana, who are claimed to be Vedic rishis also, are philosophies of Reality from the standpoint of Nature (Objective), of Self (Psychological) and of Brahma (the transcendent whole which explain the other two in terms of its own body (sarira).
All that these orthodox or astika systems claim is that they are not opposed to conceding a direct intuitive way of knowing or sruti as transmitted through these sages of the Veda, though in a true sense it would be important if not imperative to demand these to illustrate their discoveries about nature self and the whole through intuitive experience. Later medieval treatment of the schools became more and more humanistic, that is to say, intellectual. The attempt was made to show that intuitive deliverances or the scriptures were not opposed to intellectual reasoning processes and sense-experience but were capable of being supported by these. Thus instead of the classic mystic statement that senses deceive even as reasoning does, and in truth inverted versions of the Intuitive, the humanistic doctrine that institution itself must submit to the court of reason and sense. Senses do grand truth as verily as institutions, and reasoning is reliable test of truth. Such a change in the approaches did in fact lead to the present condition of philosophical interpretation. Despite the homage that traditionalists pay to scripture it is clear that the humanistic approach clearly abolished the attempt to arrive at that supreme insight disciplined in the intuitive search for Reality for its own sake. In our history of philosophic thought, though advaita realized the gap and the inversion (vivarta) of reality in the phenomenon. It was difficult for it to establish the relationship between the pratyaksa, paroksa and aparoksa except through appeals to transcendence contained in the scriptures themselves, a transcendence that remained inexpressible. Darsana remained even in Advaita a word for scriptural knowledge not quite an anubhava or experience of Reality qua Reality.
The basic concept of Reality as beyond all predications and beyond all pramanas or sources and ways of knowing (including feelings, and willing) made it impossible to have or attain Reality except by losing oneself and all in it. The logical exposition of transcendence in terms of language or rite became also impossible. If Void or Nihil meant this impossibility of expression or experience or both, then metaphysics would be impossible, though Advaita Vedanta could not accept this conclusion. Reality is a question of Being rather than knowing and the gap between the two is inexplicable or at the best is one of vivarta or inversion. Knowing is a knot in Being or a twist which makes phenomenal existence possible though undependable and is full of suffering and sorrow. The Buddha Darsana was bold enough to affirm that the Void or Sunya or Nirvana is a transcendental condition about which nothing can be said except that Suffering is not, desire is not, and the cycle of birth and death is extinguished once for all.
Sunya means extinguishment, non-existence or Zero-sunna is really a prakrtic form of the Sunya. The Vedic usage of Nya as going beyond or surrendering all ego prefixed by Su-excellent, makes Sunya a word of deepest import though in usage it was made equivalent to zero or nothingness or tuccha-a word used in respect of the world of change or valuelessness. The triumph over suffering or change or the cycle of birth and death which desire produces is about the one uniform goal of all lovers of peace which was equated with Permanence, Reality, Essence and beyond all ego and its formations including the mind. A state of amanaska (beyond mind or manas) of even buddhi or consciousness of duality or suffering was sought after, though it also meant being beyond the body (asarirata) that is liable to disease, decay and death.