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VIJÑĀNABHIKU (c. sixteenth century ce) was an Indian philosopher and exponent of a syncretic Sākhya-Yoga and Vedānta system. Nothing is known of the birthplace of Vijñānabhiku, but some scholars have suggested that he was a native of Bengal. His direct disciple was Bhāvāgaeśa, who may be the same as Gaeśa Dīkita, the author of a commentary on the Tarkabhāā.

Vijñānabhiku holds a significant position in the history of Indian philosophy. A Sākhya-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, Sākhya-pravacana-sūtrabhāya, and Sākhyasārah. He also wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sūtra and on many Upaniads, including the Kaha, Kaivalya, and Taittirīya.

Although Vijñānabhiku was undoubtedly an original thinker, his originality was strongly tempered by his syncretic tendencies, as seen in his combining of Sākhya-Yoga with Vedānta thought. One of his unique views was that the individual's ultimate goal is not the cessation of sorrow (dukha ), but the cessation of the experience of sorrow. He maintained that the state of moka ("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.

Vijñānabhiku 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 Vijñānabhiku, 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 Vijñānabhiku, the world is not illusory, because prakti ("matter, nature"), being part of brahman, is eternal and real. The creation is a real, not an illusory, transformation (pariāma), as in the Sākhya view.

Bhiku'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 suupti ("dreamless sleep") as a vtti ("transformation") of consciousness, while the Vedānta school argues that it is not a vtti at all. Bhiku 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 Upaniads talk about the second.

God, the creator, is not simply an agent (as the Nyāya-Vaiśeikas 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-Vaiśeika: samavāyin ("inherent"), asamavāyin ("non-inherent"), and nimitta ("efficient cause"). Rather, Vijñānabhiku refers to adhihāna kāraa ("ground cause, container"). For Śakara too, brahman is the ground for all changes and causation. But while Śakara believes that all changing phenomena are unreal and the ground cause is real, Bhiku 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, Bhiku 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."

See Also

Patañjali the Grammarian.


Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 3. London, 1940. See chapter 22.

Rukmani, T. S., trans. Yogavãrttika of Vijñānabhiku. Delhi, 1981. Text and translation.

Bimal Krishna Matilal (1987)