VIJÑĀNABHIKṢU (c. sixteenth century ce) was an Indian philosopher and exponent of a syncretic Sāṃkhya-Yoga and Vedānta system. Nothing is known of the birthplace of Vijñānabhikṣu, but some scholars have suggested that he was a native of Bengal. His direct disciple was Bhāvāgaṇeśa, who may be the same as Gaṇeśa Dīkṣita, the author of a commentary on the Tarkabhāṣā.
Vijñānabhikṣu holds a significant position in the history of Indian philosophy. A Sāṃkhya-Yoga thinker, he is nonetheless recognized as having developed a distinct philosophical position all his own. He was the author of as many as sixteen or eighteen works, four or five of which are available as printed texts. The most notable are Yogavārttika, Sāṃkhya-pravacana-sūtrabhāṣya, and Sāṃkhyasārah. He also wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sūtra and on many Upaniṣads, including the Kaṭha, Kaivalya, and Taittirīya.
Although Vijñānabhikṣu was undoubtedly an original thinker, his originality was strongly tempered by his syncretic tendencies, as seen in his combining of Sāṃkhya-Yoga with Vedānta thought. One of his unique views was that the individual's ultimate goal is not the cessation of sorrow (duḥkha ), but the cessation of the experience of sorrow. He maintained that the state of mokṣa ("liberation") is not blissful and that when the scriptures talk about the blissful state of the self (ānandamaya ), what they really mean is the absence of sorrow.
Vijñānabhikṣu was primarily a yogin, both in theory and practice. In his Yogavārttika, he claimed that Yoga (as taught by Patañjali) is the best path to liberation. He believed that it was necessary to reconcile Vedānta philosophy with Yoga philosophy in order to combine knowledge and praxis. He was critical of Advaita Vedānta and charged that the Advaitins were crypto-Buddhists.
For Vijñānabhikṣu, sentient beings (jīva s) are not identical with brahman (Īśvara or Parameśvara) but are just parts of brahman. The relationship is one of the-part-and-the-whole, not total identity; the jīva s are the sparks of the fire that is brahman. Brahman creates the world, often referred to as māyā ("illusion"). However, according to Vijñānabhikṣu, the world is not illusory, because prakṛti ("matter, nature"), being part of brahman, is eternal and real. The creation is a real, not an illusory, transformation (pariṇāma), as in the Sāṃkhya view.
Bhikṣu's interpretation of the Yoga Sūtra differed from that of either Vācaspati Miśra or Bhoja. His interpretation of vikalpa ("mental discrimination") indicates a Buddhist influence. The Yoga school regards suṣupti ("dreamless sleep") as a vṛtti ("transformation") of consciousness, while the Vedānta school argues that it is not a vṛtti at all. Bhikṣu reconciles these viewpoints by saying that there are two states of dreamless sleep: ardha ("half") and samagra ("full"). The Yoga school talks about the first, while the Upaniṣads talk about the second.
God, the creator, is not simply an agent (as the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas hold) who creates the universe as a potter produces a pot. The causality of God is said to be very different from the three types of causality mentioned by Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika: samavāyin ("inherent"), asamavāyin ("non-inherent"), and nimitta ("efficient cause"). Rather, Vijñānabhikṣu refers to adhiṣṭhāna kāraṇa ("ground cause, container"). For Śaṃkara too, brahman is the ground for all changes and causation. But while Śaṃkara believes that all changing phenomena are unreal and the ground cause is real, Bhikṣu asserts that all changes are real and that the unchangeable ground cause, brahman, sustains this principle of change within its individual unity. By rejecting nondualism, Bhikṣu also fostered the bhakti movement. He interpreted bhakti as true devotion in the service of God, and referred to the Bhāgavata description of bhakti as "the emotion that melts the heart and brings tears to the eyes."
Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 3. London, 1940. See chapter 22.
Rukmani, T. S., trans. Yogavãrttika of Vijñānabhikṣu. Delhi, 1981. Text and translation.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1987)