December 14, 2006

The fires of the breath keep watch in that sleeping city

Re: Instruments of Knowledge and Post-Human Destinies
by RY Deshpande on Wed 13 Dec 2006 09:04 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
As we have been looking into the aspects of sense and perception, let us try to link up these with the Sankhya formulations. In fact their interdependence is obvious, as if the Sankhya is providing the means for manifestation of the spirit’s faculties. Spirit is full of qualities and the question to be answered is about their materialisation: How do they appear in the material world? Here we will pick up the Prashna Upanishad, its Fourth Question by Gargya of the Solar race. Gargya approaches Rishi Pippalada and asks him: “Lord, what are they that slumber in this Existing and what that keep vigil? Who is this god who sees dreams or whose is this felicity? Into whom do they all vanish?” The relevant part of the question for our present discussion is about they who keep vigil. The relationship between Sleep, Prajna, Taijas is significant. It could be put as follows:
“When the being sleeps he sees not, neither hears, nor does he smell, nor taste, nor touch, nor speaks he aught, nor takes in or gives out, nor comes nor goes; he feels not any felicity. But the fires of the breath, prānāgni, keep watch in that sleeping city.”
The Rishi proceeds and tells: “Earth and the inner things of earth: water and the inner things of water: light and the inner things of light: air and the inner things of air: ether and the inner things of ether: the eye and its seeings: the ear and its hearings: smell and the objects of smell: taste and the objects of taste: … Life and the things it maintains—for this that sees and touches, hears, smells, tastes, feels, understands, acts is the reasoning self, vijnānātmā the knower of the Imperishable, the Purusha within.” Sri Aurobindo’s rendering.
Let us pick up the first phrase of the series: Earth and the inner things of earth, prithivī ca prithivīmātrā. S. Radhakrishnana renders prithivī ca prithivīmātrā as Earth and elements of earth, etc; but the connotation of the gross and the subtle aspects, sthula and sukshma, is lost in it. In it we have the elemental sense of the prithvi or earth-atom as well as all the associations with the characteristics of gandha or smell with it. We shall see this in more detail separately.
In the Gita there is the mention of the contacts of the senses with their objects creating the feeling or perception of things, such as heat and cold, pain and pleasure, mātrāsparsha; they come and go and are impermanent, it tells. The Bhagavata Purana speakss of this material contact producing sense of enjoyment and recommends to beware of it. True knowledge comes by purifying the senses. Connected with the Sankhya theory let us read two quotations from The Life Divine. We shall take these again in another context.
All forms of Matter of which we are aware, all physical things even to the most subtle, are built up by the combination of these five elements...The Life Divine, pp. 81-82
If we consider what it is that most represents to us the materiality of Matter, we shall see that it is its aspects of solidity, tangibility, increasing resistance, firm response to the touch of Sense...The Life Divine, pp. 252-53

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