[The Various Systems of Beliefs]

Setting about on her mission to the city of Vañji, she went to the assemblage of the teachers of the different persuasions, and addressing the leader of the votaries of the path of the Vēda, asked him to let her know the ultimate truth as he understood it.


Discoursing on the instruments of knowledge as recognized by his school, he pointed out that,

‘Three teachers are recognized as of authority, namely, Vēdavyāsa, Ktakōṭi and the faultless Jaimini. These three have recognized instruments of knowledge to be ten, eight and six respectively. These are (1) direct perception (Pratyakṣa), (2) Inference (Anumāna), (3) similitude (Upamā), (4) authority (Āgama), (5) inferential assumption (Arthāpatti), (6) appropriateness (Iyalbu or Svabhāva), (7) tradition (Aitihya), (8) non-existence or negation (Abhāva), (9) inference by elimination or by correlation (Mītchi or [190] Oḷibu, Sans.: Pāriśēṣa) and (10) occurrence (Uṇḍāneṟi or Uḷḷaneṟi, San.: Sambhava).

Of these, (1) Kātchi, direct perception, is of five kinds, according as they are perceived by the particular sense organ, namely, sensation of the colour by the eyes, sound by the ear, smell by the nose, taste by the tongue, and touch by the body. By means of these is experienced pleasure or pain. Contact of these with the life principle (Prāṇa, or Uyir of the text), the means of communication of these (vāyil), and the mind that experiences these (manas), operating without interruption lead to understanding without exclusion, without error and without doubt, of place, of form, of genus, of quality, of action with due reference to light, (Clearness of understanding?). sense and place.

(2) Karudal (Anumāna) is the inference of that which is unseen from that which is seen or felt. It is of three kinds, namely, (1) the common (Podu; Sans.: Sāmānya), (2) proceeding from the result to the cause, (Eccham; or Sans.: Sēṣavat) and (3) from the cause to the result (Mudal; or Sans.: Pūrvaval). It is common inference when, though two circumstances may not be connected inevitably with each other, the occurrence of the one leads to the inference of the other, as in the case of the inference of the existence of an elephant in a forest when one hears a sound like the trumpting of an elephant. In inferring from the sight of freshes in a river, rain is the source of it, is inference of the cause from the result. When we predict rain from the sight of the clouds, we are inferring the result from a cause. Thus inference is knowledge that we gain of that which is not present; and is applicable to the past, present and future.

(3) The third means of knowledge Upamāna has reference to understanding by comparison or by means of [191] similitude.

(4) Āgama is understanding by authority as, when we assume the existence of heaven and hell from the writings of those of authority.

(5) Arthāpatti is understanding by association, as when a shepherd’s village is said to be on the Ganges, we understand that it is situated on the banks of the river.

(6) Iyalbu that which is appropriate to the actual circumstances as when a man on the back of an elephant wants ‘the stick’, one understands the goad.

(7) Aitiham, accepted tradition, as in the case of a ghost existing in a tree.

(8) Abhāvam is merely the assertion of that which does not exist in a place as non-existent there.

(9) Mītchi is understanding by correlation as when it is said that Rāma won in the battle, one understands the defeat of Rāvaṇa.

(10) Uḷḷaneṟi (lit. course of nature) is what usually happens as when an iron piece moves, we infer the existence of a magnet.

Eight are the pramāṇa-ābhasas, those that resemble instruments of knowledge, or can be regarded as such;

(1) Śuṭṭuṇarvu, knowledge by direct contact by which we learn the existence of all that exists;

(2) Tiryak-Kōḍal, mistaken conception such as taking the mother of pearl for silver;

(3) Aiyam, doubt, remaining unsettled whether that which appears before the eye is a stump of wood or a man;

(4) Tērādu-Teḷidal, deciding without conviction, as in mistaking a stump of wood for a man;

(5) Kaṇḍu-ṇarāmai, not understanding even on seeing, such as not understanding a creature to be a tiger even after seeing it prowling near;

(6) Il-valakku, asserting as existent that which does not exist, as in speaking of the horns of a rabbit understandable only by the use of the expression, and not by actual existence of the thing connoted by the word;

(7) Uṇarndadai-Uṇardal feeling that which is plainly felt by experience, such as attempting to prove that fire is destructive of mist, and

(8) Ninaippu, [192] perception by assumption, such as taking a couple to be one’s father and mother on the statement of others.

Six are the systems that are founded on the basis of these instruments of knowledge; (1) Lōkāyata, (2) Bauddha, (3) Sāṁkhya, (4) Nayyāyika, (5) Vaiśēṣika, and (6) Mīmāṁsa.

The teachers of these six systems respectively are, (1) Bhaspati, (2) Jina, (3) Kapila, (4) Akṣapāda, (5), Kāṇāda, and (6) Jaimini.

Truth is ascertained by means of Pratyakṣa, (2) Anumāna, (3) Sātta (Sans. Sābda otherwise Āgama), (4) Upamāna, (5) Arthāpatti and (6) Abhāva. These are the instruments of knowledge accepted as such at the present time.’

Śaivavādī, Brahmavādī and Vēdavādī

Passing on from him, she went to the Śaivavādī. In response to her enquiry that he might explain his system, he stated the two lights (the sun and the moon), the doer and the five elements constitute the basis from out of which human beings are made by combination of life and body. He who does this is constituted of the Kālas; his nature it is to create beings as an act of play, and he destroys them and thus gets rid of their sufferings; and He, besides whom there is none else, such a one is my God’.

The Brahmavādī told her that the whole of the universe is the outcome of one egg brought forth by the supreme being, Brahma. A teacher who had eagerly studied the purāṇa of Viṣṇu (he of the colour of the sea) asserted that Nārāyaṇa was the protector of all.

The Vēdavādī averred that the Veda, otherwise called Āraṇa, the unborn source of knowledge, has neither beginning nor end. Kalpa constitutes its hands, Candas its feet, Eṇ (Jyotiṣa or astronomy) its eyes, Nirukta its ears, Śikṣa its nose and Vyākaraṇa its face. ‘The path taught in the Veda is the path of life.’

Maṇimēkhalai felt that the teachings of these would not conform either to truth itself as taught in learned books, or as practised by the knowing. [193]


She then addressed the venerable one, the expounder of ‘the book’ of the Ājīvakas, and asked him to state what the governing deity was according to him and what the authoritative work of his teaching. The Ājīvaka teacher replied:

‘That one whose knowledge is limitless and who is seen immanent always and in all things of the vast and limitless variety of things that exist, is ‘our supreme teacher.’

The subject matter of the treatise dealing with the Ājīvakas is of five things, namely, life and the four elements, earth, water, fire, and air in indivisible atoms. These when they combine could be felt and seen, but when broken up, they could not be seen. The elements, earth, water, fire and air, these four gather together as a hill, tree or body; or disintegrate and spread themselves out as the constituent atoms. That which perceives these phenomena is what is called life.

Earth is in the form of a solid, water exhibits the quality of coolness and is fluid; fire sends up its flame and causes the sensation of heat; air moves to and fro. Thus is constituted the nature of these elements.

These in their atomic condition, without a beginning, may assume another nature by change of form, but cannot be destroyed. There is nothing that comes into existence new and enters into another. The atom will not split into two, nor will it expand in that same form. These will however move, will flow and will rise. They will combine into a hill; they will break up into each its own particular form of atoms. They may come together in such density as to assume the form of solids like diamond; they will assume the form of a hallow bamboo; they will constitute the seed which sprouts out and grows.

Thus the elements, as the full moon, when they spread out together over the whole earth and assume the forms of the various bhūtas, remain combined [194] in the proportion of the whole, or three quarters, or half, or a quarter, but neither more nor less, and get named according as the one or the other predominates. Unless they combine in this manner, they will not attain to the forms of the firm earth, or fluid water, or the warming fire, or the moving wind.

One atom could be seen only by those who have the divine eye of knowledge; others cannot see them. In the shape of combined atoms constituting bhūtas they can be seen; just as in the dusk of an evening one may not see a single hair, though one could easily discern a bundle of it.

These atoms in their combination are born in black, or dark blue, or green, or red, or golden, or pure white. These are the six forms in which these elements take birth, in combination. These are in the rising order of excellence, and it is by being born pure white that these attain to cessation of birth (vīḍu). Those who do not wish to suffer will reach this end. This is the nature of the path of righteousness.

The false path, on the contrary, is a circle of birth, death and suffering, of taking birth in the place appointed, of suffering sorrow and happiness in the great majority of cases. Getting rid of these, of being born and of dying, come to a being in the womb. Happiness and suffering and the result of these may be described as atoms also. It is a previous fate that makes for the suffering to follow. This is the essence of the teaching of the treatise of Markali.’ Markali, it is obvious, is Markali Gōśāla, the founder of the sect of the Ājīvikas. But any treatise written by him has not so far been noticed to my knowledge. Here apparently is an accepted work of authority by this teacher. That work according to the Nīlakēśī Tiraṭṭa is called Navakadir, translated into Tamil, Onbadukadir. According to the same authority, the teaching of the Ājīvakas had great vogue in a place called Samadaṇḍa.

Maṇimēkhalai regarding this as a contradictory statement of ill-applied words, passed on to the Nirgrantha. [195]

Nirgrantha (Jaina)

She asked the Nirgrantha, as she did the others to expound truly,

‘Who the deity that he worshipped was and what the teaching of the authoritative works of his sect; how that teaching takes effect, what it is that binds them to existence and how release can be obtained from this bondage.’

He replied:

‘Our deity is that one who is worshipped by the Indras. The teaching that he vouchsafed to us consists of the following six sections:–

(1) Dharmāstikāya, (2) Adharmāstikāya, (3) Kāla, (4) Ākāsa, (5) Jīva, (6) the Paramāṇus.

Good deeds and bad deeds and the bondage (bandha) resulting therefrom together with release (vīḍu) from this bondage, constitute the excellent teaching. A thing may exist in its own nature, or change it and assume that of another with which it is associated. So doing it shows itself impermanent and permanent, thus exhibiting at one moment the three conditions of appearance, existence and destruction, the three indivisible states.

That a margosa seed sprouts and grows into a tree makes the seed eternal, but that the seed no longer exists in the tree makes it non-eternal. So also when green peas are boiled and made into a pastry, the nature of the peas is not destroyed and yet it ceases to be peas. The cause of the change is in Dharmāstikāya (principle of movement) which exists everywhere and enables movement in things.

Similarly the related principle of stationariness is equally eternal and all-pervading and enables things to be in a statical condition. Time measures things by the short span of a second as well as the almost immeasurable Kalpa. Ākāśa gives the space for all things to be in. When jīva or life combines with the body or matter, it is capable of enjoying taste, etc. The irreducible atom may form part of a body or be something else out of it. It is jīva [196] in combination with body that does good or does evil. The result of these deeds is bondage; the suppression of the causes and the consequent bondage arising therefrom, constitutes release (Nirvāṇa).’


The Sāṁkhya philosopher said this,

‘The Primary Element (Mūla Prakti) forms the matrix in which all things appear. It has no activity of its own and is common to all. It is formed of the three qualities, and is difficult to conceive. From this primary element (Mūla Prakti) arises Mahān or Buddhi (great); from this springs ākāśa (space); from ākāśa arises vāyu (air); from air arises fire, agni (Sans. Agni); from this again comes water (appu, Sans. Āpaḥ); from water arises earth. From a combination of all these springs mind (manas). In the mind springs the notion of self ahaṁkāra (or individuation).

Similarly from ākāśa springs sound heard by the ear; from vāyu the sense of touch felt by the skin; from agni arises the sense of sight felt by the eyes; from out of water taste experienced by the tongue; from earth springs the sense of smell experienced by the nose.

These find expression by means of the physical organs; speech by the tongue, touch by the hand, movement by the feet, evacuation by pāyu (excretal organs) and generation by upasthā (generative organs).

Thus arising by transformation of the bhūtas recited above, come into existence hills, trees, etc. These again get merged in their sources in a process of involution as they come into existence by a process of evolution. In the process of involution all these become one again and pervade all space and exist for eternity.

Puruṣa (subject) on the contrary, is easy to conceive, without being the three qualities (guṇas), incapable of being grasped by the sense organs (indriyas) without being the matrix in which other things appear, being none-the-less [197] that which could be felt by all those things, being a unity all-pervading and eternal, will show itself as that which is conceived as eternal.

Things understood by the senses are twenty-five. Of these the five elements are earth, water, fire, air and ether; five are the organs, the body, the mouth, the eyes, the nose and the ear. Taste, sight, touch, sound and smell, these are the five subtle elements, the tongue, the feet, the hands, the excretary organs, and the generating organs constitute the organs of action. Then follow mind (manas), intelligence (buddhi), subjectivation (ahaṁkāram), feeling (cittam) and life, otherwise called ātmā. These constitute the twenty-five entities (tatvas).


Having heard this clear exposition, Maṇimēkhalai passed on to the Vaiśēṣika, and asked him to proceed with his argument.

‘Substance, qualities, action, commonness, speciality and collectivity, these constitute the six divisions. Of these the first has the attributes of the second and the third, and is the cause of all things. These substances, or matter, fall into nine divisions, earth, water, fire, air, space, the directions, time, soul and mind.
Of these, earth is possessed of the five qualities, of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The other four (water, fire, air and space) have qualities, each one less, in the order in which they are given above.

Sound, touch, sight, smell, taste, largeness, smallness, hardness, softness, rightness, thinness, capacity to take shape, capacity to take sight, these constitute the qualities of matter. Matter, quality and capacity for action are common to all terms of matter. Since change of form and stationariness are common qualities of all matter, death and existence constitute also the essence of matter. Attributes, division of matter and collection of matter, qualities and that which has qualities, these [198] are the main features of existing things.’

So concluded the Vaiśēṣika teacher.


Maṇimēkhalai addressed herself last of all to the Bhūtavādī. He said:

‘Just as when the flower of tāduki (Ātti, Bauhinia racemosa). and jaggery (Crude sugar). with other things are mixed fermentation springs into existence, so when the elements combine, there springs a consciousness of feeling. When they break up, this consciousness will also break up and disappear just as the sound ceases when a drum is broken down into its parts. Any one of these elements, when it is in life and has this consciousness, and when it has neither of these, springs into existence from out of the same element. This is the true course of things.

Other details of the teaching that I may have to expound, and the tatvas that I may have to explain are the same as those of the Lōkāyatas. Among the Pramāṇas, Pratyakṣa is the one admissible, even Anumāna is to be rejected. That which exists in the present, and that which we enjoy in this present life, are the only two states of existence; that there is another life and the enjoyment of the result of our deeds in it, are both of them false.’

Having thus heard the teachings of all the systems, she thought:

‘Though these be none of them acceptable, I shall not answer any of these. Does anybody know that I have knowledge of my previous birth.’

So saying she laughed in scorn at the imperfections of the Bhūtavādī’s argument in particular. She further observed,

‘The minds of people change when one gets possessed, or when one is in a state of dreaming. There can be no doubt about this. Do you not recognize your father and mother only by inference? Who on this earth can understand this otherwise? Without understanding the ultimate truth, it would be impossible without a doubt to know the truth of things.’

While still in her [199] disguise, she gave this reply to the Bhūtavādī, having learnt already the five systems of thought, the five, namely (1) Vaidikavāda, taking into it the first five sections, and (2) Jaina, including 6 and 7 following, and (3), (4), (5) the Sāṁkhya, Vaiśēṣika and Bhūtavāda including Lōkāyata, of the ten systems expounded in this chapter.