[Advaita-l] Pancikarana vs. Trivrtkarana (was Re: Dr Mani Dravid)

Antharyami sathvatha at gmail.com
Tue Mar 31 20:26:40 CDT 2009

Hari OM~

Shri Vidyasankar Sundaresan ji,

The main points pertaining to the issue of Trivrtkarana vs Pancikarana as
found in Sankara’s Brahma Sutra bhasya and the Chandogya bhasya in my
reading do not stand in conflict with each other. Sankara in the Brahma
Sutra bhasya II.iv.22 insists that the three elements Teja, Ap and Prthvi
mutually co-exist with each other as they preponder over one another [cf.
pp552; Gambhirananda; 2004].  This view is exactly replicated in the
Chandogya bhasya VI.iii.3-4, where Sankara says that the elements follow a
three-fold turn according to the predominance and secondariness of their
qualities [cf. pp433, Gambhirananda; 2006]. Further augmenting the issues on
authorship over the topic under discussion is a desperate mismatch.

While commenting to B.S. II.iv.21, Sankara mentions the method of
triplication where he cites that ‘food when eaten becomes three parts
grossest becoming excreta; medium, the flesh; subtlest as the mind’ as
mentioned in the Ch.Up VI.v.1. Turning to the Bhasya of the cited portion,
Sankara reiterates exactly the above three-fold division. In the B.S.
II.iv.20, ‘Samjnamurtiklrptistu trivrtkurvata upadesat’; the point that
ought to be observed is that, where Sankara speaks mainly about the elements
involved in the process of triplication. This Sutra is very crucial in
delineating the process of triplication where the commencement of fire,
water and earth is explained. Since Akasa and Vayu are not included in the
process of triplication there arises a doubt whether they remain without
being triplicated. Sankara in the voice of Purvapaksin laments this point
and establishes the siddhanta position clear. He says, elements like Akasa
and Vayu which are devoid of form are intrinsically present in the elements
which innately possess the quality (form) like that of fire. Fire has colour
and it has form. Further fire bears the qualities of sabda and sparsa in it
which are the qualities of Akasa and Vayu respectively. Hence the presence
of Akasa and Vayu can verily be inferred in fire itself. Therefore, when
Fire gets triplicated, the transformation of Akasa and Vayu becomes a
natural consequence and there is no scope for an unwelcome position that
Akasa and Vayu remaining Nirvikara. Furthermore, the process of triplication
is mainly to divide the element (fire, water and earth) into three levels
gross, medium and subtlest. Akasa and Vayu being devoid of form are
potentially incapable of being reduced to the gross level and hence they do
not partake in the process of triplication as fire and other elements do.
This is one reason why Akasa and Vayu are taken along with fire and not
separately. Thus triplication of fire, water and earth itself amounts to
triplicating other two elements also and that everything gets transformed
automatically. Followers of Bhamati only say that ‘ekaikam trivrtam’ cannot
be applied to Akasa and Vayu exclusively and that they get modified only
along with the fire and not independently. This is one point that is unique
to the process of triplication unlike the method of Pancikarana. Sankara
remarks ‘sad-vikaratvat trinyeva’.

More, the Taittiriya Sruti as you fear is no threat to the theory of
triplication as explained in the Chandogya or Brahma sutra bhasya-s. In the
sutra-bhasya, Acarya copiously quotes the Taittiriya statements [Tai. Up II.
i.1 / III.i.1 / II. vii.1] besides Chandogya mainly to highlight the
Avirodha. In the Taittiriya Sankara gives a new dimension to the theory of
creation by explaining the terms like ‘niruktam’, ‘aniruktam’, ‘nilayanam’,
anilayanam’ etc meeting the demands of Mantra content. Tai. II.i.1, for
example, says ‘akasa sambhutah’ and the bhasyakara comments to say ‘akasa
provides space for all things that has forms’. This indeed makes a pellucid
point that gives scope for disintegration of forms that merges into the
formless, in which case during pralaya when triplication devolves, fire
comsumes water and earth and it merges with vayu which again fuses down with
the Akasa. After all Taittiriya intends to insist on its Panca-kosa concept
more than anything else.

Glossators of Sankara’s sutra bhasya uses frequent usage of expressions like
‘atrivrtkrtaptesoraviruddhatvat’; ‘atrivrtkrteti’ etc as found in Ratna
prabha, Nyayanirnaya, Kalpatatu, Parimala & Abhoga, which reveals the fact
that chemistry of creation is indubiously taken for granted as trivrtkarana
and not pancikarana. You are not wrong in saying that Sankara is not against
‘Pancikarana process’ but Sankara delineates at length only Trivrtkarana
throughout his prasthana traya bhasya-s while he makes a mere passing
reference to Pancikarana to say, ‘Pancikarane’pi samanonyaya’ – as a mere
off-shoot. You cannot attribute something to an author just for the reason
that he has not spoken anything against it; for am afraid it poses serious
hermeneutical problems. Vacaspati Misra is completely silent about
Pancikarana for he merely favors Trivrtkarana per-se. For that matter the
theory of avacceda vada is popularly made patent to Vacaspati even though he
uses analogies to demonstrate the pratibimba theory [cf.
Utpatyasambhavadhikaranam; Tarka khanda]. In my opinion Vacaspati Misra is
branded with a particular theory just for the reason that he feels one more
convincing than the other; like the case of avacceda over pratibimba and so
does trivrtkarana over pancikarana. Left to bhamati tradition, Vacaspati may
not be found in the trivrtkarana-only-not-pancikarana camp but he is
certainly placed in the ‘trivrtkarana-only’ camp in Vivarana’s view point
from Pancikarana-only-not-trivrtkarana camp. This may be clearly seen from
the tone with which both Brahmananda sarasvati (in his nyayaratnavali) and
Vasudeva-abhyankar (in his Siddhantabindu vyakhya) interprets the term
‘kecit’. Brahmananda says ‘kecit – Vacaspatimisra-kalpatarukarayadah’ while
Abhyankar sastri says ‘athah trivrtkaranavadinam Vacaspatimisranam
matamanvadati – atra ca trivrtamiti’. I assume that you have read these
commentaries where the authors completely refute the theory of trivritkarana
while endorsing Pancikarana. There is no commentator who interprets the term
kecit in the way you would want it to be. Madhusudana Sarasvati in fact puts
Vacaspati clearly on the non-pancikarana camp when he says ‘trivrtkaranam
‘eva’ kecit manyante’ – ‘eva’ connotes trivrtkarana-only camp while ‘kecit’
apparently denotes Vacaspati Misra as mentioned by commentators.

Amalananda makes a beautiful statement in the kalpataru:

            ‘sampradayadhvana pancikaranam yadyapi sthitam |

            Tathapi yuktidrstatvad-Vacaspatimatam Shubham ||’

and there ends the issue. Isnt’t?

Lastly, discussions about vata, pittha and slesma are found in Bhamati,
Kalpataru, parimala and Abhoga; contextually it is necessary that we look
for the relevant references from Caraka and Susruta samhita-s.

With Narayana Smrti,


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