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Saankhya & Rebirth

Saankhya (Numbers) & Rebirth


Rebirth is a subject which none except the ancient Indian philosophers believed fully in. The concept has been the subject of much debate in the rest of the world. The sages wrote at length about the destructible and non destructible parts in a human body while repeatedly confirming the existence of God or the Almighty Brahma. An Indian sage, Ved Vyasa tried to put an end to variety of doubts through his philosophical work “Vedanta Darshan”. While he agreed with the details of ‘Prakriti’ given by another sage Kapil in his work “Sankhya Shastra” he rejected the idea that Prakriti was the soul cause of every thing. Ved Vyasa held that everything in the Universe was/is only Brahma. ‘ Sarvam khalvidam Brahm.’, He says.

All ancient thinkers agreed that it is the body which dies or takes birth while the Soul (Aatman) in it never dies. The Jeevaatman in a body, according to them is a miniscule from the Brahma or the Paramaatman. While the believers in duality (Dvaita) say that the body is the abode of the two supernatural entities named Paramaatman & Jeevaatman; the believers of Uniqueness (Advait) hold that Jeevaatman in the body is a part of the infinite Paramaatman never separate from the whole. Why the part remains separate yet linked with the whole may be understood through the example of electrical current in a small user unit and the current at the Power House. One needs to read the scriptures again and again thoughtfully to make some sense according to one’s intellectual powers.

The question of rebirth is as intricate as the questions raised in connection with existence of the Universe. Sankhya has tried to delve into it statistically using 25 essential elements in a living body. Of these 24 are the forms of Prakriti and the 25th is the conscious part called Purusha. The counting of Prakriti goes as under:

  • 1 - The Avyakta Prakriti( Invisible Nature) is the cause off all the system according to Sankhya.
  • 2, 3, 4 -  From Avyakta Prakriti rise Mind(Manas), Intellect(Buddhi) and  Ego(Ahankar)….primary abstract organs.
  • 5,6,7,8,9 - The five objects felt by the primary organs(Panch Tanmaatra). They are Taste(Rasa), Form(Roopa), Sound(Shabda), Touch(Sparsha) and Smell (Gandha).
  • 10,11,12,13,14- The basic faculties which recognize the objects(Panch Gianendriya): Hearing, touch, seeing, tasting and smelling.
  • 15,16,17,18,19 - Physical elements rising from the Avyakta Prakriti carrying those 5 objects. They are Emptiness(Akasha) connected with Sound; Air(Vaayu) connected with Touch; Fire(Agni) connected with form, Water(Jala) connected with taste and Earth(Prithvi) connected with smell. The order in which they are enumerated is suggestive of the idea that each has the capability of connection with the predecessor.
  • 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 - The action powers(Karmendriya) of the physical body made of the physical elements: Ears, skin, hands & feet, tongue, and anus & urethra.

The counting of these elements may be questionable according to other lines of thought; but, this gives an idea of the three bodies(Shareera) called The Kaaran Shareera, The Sookshma Shareer and The Sthool Shareera. The Sthoola Shareera houses the other two and it is the set of elements numbered 15 to 24 while the Sookshma made of elements 2 to 14 lies within. All these come from Avyakta Prakriti. The Jeevaatman with the Sookshma is Kaaran Shareera. It leaves the Sthool Shareera on death and searches for a new abode in the light of experiences of life foregone and the desires prevalent. It does not seek rebirth if the Sookshma Shareera is so purified that it has no desires left. This state of extreme purification is called 'Moksha' in which the Jeevaatman (Soul) merges with the Paramaatman (God). Patanjali defines Eeshwara (God) as the Purusha (Man) which has no tensions or stored record of actions and their fruits.

In the end, like all the ancient thinkers, we, the Jeevas (living beings), can only say that we know this much while the Almighty and His powers are infinite.

contributed by Lt.Mr.M.M.Kaushal