Monday, June 15, 2009

Siddhantabindu - 2

Siddhantabindu - 2


by Madhusudana Sarasvati


[Commentary on Dasasloki of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada]

9. By this (by accepting that it is the unconditioned Brahman that is the subject matter of the Mahavakya 'That thou art'), it follows that the distinction of knower and known has no place in the understanding of the Mahavakya. This is supported by the fact that Asamprajnatasamadhi (in which the distinction of knower, knowing and known does not exist) is accepted by Sruti and Smrti.

Note: Asamprajnatasamadhi is described in Katha Upanishad, 2.3.10:-"When the five senses come to rest along with the mind, and the intellect too ceases to function, that is known as the supreme state". In the Bhagavadgita this samadhi is described in 6.20: "When the mind, restrained through the practice of Yoga remains free from modifications, and when, seeing the Self with the mind one remains contented in the Self alone".

10. The goal of life is not attained by the mere knowledge of the (primary) meanings of the terms 'that' and 'thou', because of imperceptibility (of the Creator) and multiplicity (of the jivas).

Note: There can be no identity between God who is the primary sense of 'that' and the individual jiva who is the primary sense of 'thou', because God is only one and cannot be known by the senses, and jivas are many and are actually perceived.

11. There is no tautology (in the sentence 'That thou art') because there is an apparent difference between the primary senses of the two terms. Since the implied meanings are identical, a non-relational sense is conveyed.

Note: It cannot be said that in the Mahavakya there is tautology-- saying the same thing over again in different words - on the ground that two words with the same meaning, namely 'that' and 'thou' are used. There is no such defect because the primary meanings of the two words are different. At the same time, this difference is only apparent and not substantial, because the implied senses are identical, namely, pure consciousness. A sentence such as 'The cloth is blue" is said to be relational, because it brings out the relationship of substance and quality between the cloth and blueness. But in the sentence 'That thou art' there is no such relationship because both the terms refer to the same partless entity, pure consciousness. So this sentence is described as non-relational.

12. When a sentence is non-relational, denoting an unconditioned entity, the mental impression created by the words in that sentence is also that of an unconditioned entity, if the words are understood in a manner that is in consonance with the sense of the sentence as a whole. This is in conformity with our experience. The recollection brought about by a sentence is that of a conditioned entity only when the entity denoted by the words in it is conditioned. In the present instance the sense of the sentence (the Mahavakya) is unconditioned (and therefore non-relational), because that alone, being right knowledge, has the capacity to destroy nescience.

Note: This paragraph is intended to refute the view held by the adherents of some other schools. According to them a sentence, whether scriptural or otherwise, can convey only a relational sense and can therefore refer only to a conditioned entity. This view is rejected and it is pointed out that the sense of the sentence depends on the nature of the entity it denotes. Two examples of non-relational sentences are generally given in Vedantic works. One is the sentence, "This is that Devadatta". By this sentence the identity of the person now in front and a person named Devadatta who was seen at another time and place, is conveyed. Another sentence is, "The most resplendent is the moon", said in reply to the question, "Which is the moon?". This sentence does not intend to convey any relational content, but merely identifies the moon.

13. It cannot be said that a word can be given an implied meaning only if the entity intended to be denoted by the implied meaning has a special characteristic. The primary or implied meanings of the words in a sentence are those which are in consonance with the sense of the sentence as a whole.

Note: In the sentence "There are huts on the Ganga", the implied meaning (lakshya-artha) of the term 'Ganga' is the bank of the river, since there cannot be huts on the river itself. The special characteristic feature of the bank is 'tiratva' or bankness. An objection may be raised that resort to the implied meaning of a word is possible only when the particular implied meaning intended to be given to the word has some characteristic (known as 'lakshyata - avacchedaka), just as the 'bank' has the characteristic feature 'bankness'. Therefore, it may be contended, the unconditioned jiva and Brahman, which have no characteristics at all, cannot be the implied meaning of the terms 'thou' and 'that'. This objection is rejected by pointing out that the existence of any characteristic feature for the sense implied by a word is not an essential condition for the word to have that implied sense. What is necessary is only that the implied sense should be in consonance with the idea intended to be conveyed by the sentence, just as the meaning 'bank' for the word 'Ganga' is in consonance with the idea intended to be conveyed by the sentence "There are huts on the Ganga".

14. Objection: Since the import of the Mahavakya becomes known through the understanding of the meaning of the words in it from the subsidiary Vedantic sentences themselves, and since the Mahavakya is itself self-valid (a valid means of knowledge by itself), it is reasonable to conclude that the Mahavakya itself can cause the cessation of nescience and its effects. So what is the need for an enquiry?

15. Ans: It is true that Vedantic statements, being by themselves authoritative, can give rise to the direct realization of the unconditioned Self. But because of the obstruction caused by the doubts arising from the contradictory views of various schools, the Vedantic statements are not able to destroy the ignorance of those whose minds have not attained the necessary maturity. By enquiry the doubts are removed and then cessation of ignorance invariably results. Therefore enquiry is undertaken for the refutation of the contradictory views which are the cause of the doubts.

16. Now, the contradictory views about the meaning of the word 'thou' are first taken up. Though the entity denoted by the word 'that' deserves great respect since it is the ultimate import of the scriptures, the entity denoted by the word 'thou' deserves to be given more importance because it is that entity that attains liberation, which is the fruit of the scriptures.

Note: Strictly speaking, since 'thou' and 'that' are identical, there can be no question of the one being the attainer and the other the attained. So the language used here is only a concession to the popular notion that liberation is 'attained' on the removal of nescience.

17. The Charvakas say that the meaning of the word 'thou' (i.e. the individual self) is only the four elements (air, fire, water and earth) modified in the form of the body. Some other Charvakas hold that the eye, etc., individually is the self..Others hold that it is all these organs together. Some say that it is the mind and some that it is the vital air. The Saugatas (Buddhist idealists) say that it is momentary consciousness. The Madhyamika Buddhists hold that it is the void. The Jains say that it is something different from the body and of the size of the body. The Vaiseshikas, Naiyayikas and Mimamsakas of the Prabhakara school hold that it is the agent and enjoyer and is insentient and all-pervading. The Mimamsakas of the Bhatta school say that it is both sentient and insentient. (According to this school the self is both the subject and the object of every cognition. Being the subject it is consciousness itself, and being the object it is inert. They hold that the self has an element of consciousness which is the subject of cognition, and a substance element which is the object of cognition and therefore insentient). According to the Sankhyas and the followers of Patanjali's Yoga the self is pure consciousness and only an enjoyer (not agent). The followers of the Upanishads hold that the self is looked upon as an agent, etc., only because of nescience and that it is in reality free from attributes, and is supreme bliss and consciousness.

18. Thus, because of the different views held by the various schools, doubt arises about the nature of the self that is consciousness and is known in a general way as 'I'. Therefore, in order to determine specifically what is the basis of the notion 'I', the revered Acharya says: "I am not the element earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor ether, nor any of the organs individually, nor all the elements and organs together as a whole. Because of variability (of the limiting adjuncts in the states of waking and dream), the self exists by itself only in deep sleep (without the limiting adjuncts in the form of the senses, mind, etc.). I am that most auspicious, attributeless, non-dual entity who alone remains (when all duality is negated). -- Sloka 1

19. This is the meaning: Aham-the basis of the cognition 'I'. Ekah - without a second. Avasishtah - what is not negated even when all duality is negated. Sivah-of the nature of supreme bliss and consciousness, that alone being most auspicious. Kevalah-devoid of attributes.

20. Therefore the meaning is that the view of the followers of the Upanishads, that the basis of the cognition 'I' is the non-dual supreme bliss-consciousness which is beyond the scope of all means of knowledge, is superior. To establish this, the view that the body itself is the self is first taken up with the intention of refuting the views of all other schools. So it has been said: "Not the element earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor ether". The word 'I' is to be connected with each negation. I am not what is called the earth; the earth is not what is known as 'I'. Thus absence of mutual identity is to be understood.

21. Though this school (Charvaka) does not claim that each of the elements such as earth separately is the self, but it only says that their combination is the self, still, for refuting their view that the body is the self, the rejection of each of the elements separately is resorted to, because the concept of a combination has no place in the Charvaka school for the following reasons: (1) they do not accept the idea of a combination as distinguished from its constituents, (2) they do not accept such relations as 'conjunction', because that is possible only if they admit a fifth element (namely, ether) and (3) in their school there is no entity that can bring about a combination.

22. Though, according to those who hold the view that there are only four elements, ether cannot be the cause of the body since it is merely absence of covering, is eternal and non-existent, it is rejected here because according to Advaita Vedanta ether is accepted as existent and a cause of the body, etc., and could therefore be claimed to be the self (by the Charvakas).

23. Or, it may be said that the rejection of the view that the body is the self ends with the statement 'not air'. The statement 'not ether' is for rejecting the Buddhist doctrine that the void is the self, since the word 'kham' has the same import as the word 'void'.

24. By the words 'not an organ' the view that any one of the organs is the self is rejected. By the statement 'not their aggregate', the view that the self is the aggregate of the elements and of the organs which have collectively become the body is rejected. The difference is that previously the possibility of a combination was not admitted and the view that each of the elements individually was the self was rejected, but now, even admitting a combination, the view that the self could be such a combination of the elements has been rejected.

25. By the rejection of the elements, the vital air and mind, which are products of the elements are also rejected. By the rejection of the mind, the Buddhist view that momentary consciousness is the self is also rejected, since it is only a modification of the mind. Consequently, the Vaiseshika theory in which the self which is different from the body (and the mind) is accepted to be the agent and enjoyer also stands rejected, because agency and enjoyership pertain to the mind. This is because according to Advaita Vedanta knowledge, desire, happiness, etc. are in the mind. The Sruti says, "Desire, resolve, etc., are all nothing but the mind' (B. Up. 1.5.3). Therefore it is established that all the views starting from the view that the self is the body, up to those which consider the self to be merely an enjoyer, are untenable.

26. The reason for this is given:- Because they (body, mind, senses) are variable; i.e. they are always changing and so perishable. The self cannot have either antecedent non-existence (non-existence before origination), or annihilative non-existence (non-existence after destruction), because the self is not limited by space and time (and has therefore neither origination nor destruction, being eternal). Things which are so limited, such as a pot, cannot be the self, and cannot know their antecedent non-existence or annihilative non-existence. Things which are different from the self (such as the body, etc.,) are insentient; they cannot have the characteristics of the self. Even though the self (in all bodies) is only one, it is quite logical that there is no mixing up of the joys, sorrows, etc., of different jivas, because the mind which is the locus of joy and sorrow is accepted to be different for each individual (jiva). It is not possible for an entity to know its own non-existence, since the knower and his non-existence cannot be there at the same time. Moreover, if the self has origination and destruction, there will be loss of the fruits of actions performed and the experiencing of results without corresponding actions. Therefore there can be no antecedent or annihilative non-existence for the self. Since the self which is existence itself is present everywhere, there can never be absolute non-existence for it.

27. Since duality is not real (mithya), it has existence only because of its having attained identification with the reality of the substratum. As in the case of nacre-silver, etc., it is illogical to say that there is absence of identification of the superimposed with the substratum.

Note: A piece of nacre is mistaken for silver only because the superimposed silver is identified with the substratum, nacre. The silver is not real, only the nacre exists. Without the substratum, nacre, silver would not appear at all. Similarly, the world of duality, which is not real from the absolute standpoint, appears to be real only because it is identified with the substratum, Brahman, which alone is real.

28. Therefore the self is not the counter-correlative of non-existence. The body, senses, etc., are counter-correlatives of non-existence. Therefore these (body, senses, etc.,) are not the self. The essence of the conclusion is that these (body, etc.,) are indescribable (as real or unreal) and are merely superimposed by beginningless, indescribable nescience on the self which is self-luminous pure consciousness, even though it is without a second.

Note-1: Pratiyogi means 'counter-correlative'. When it is said that there is no pot at a particular place or time, the pot is said to be the counter-correlative of its non-existence at that place or time. A thing can be the counter-correlative of its non-existence only if it can be non-existent at some time or place. Everything in this world, including our own bodies, occupies only a limited space and is non-existent elsewhere. All things are non-existent before they come into existence and after their destruction. So all things are non-existent at some time and in some place. They can therefore be counter-correlatives of their non-existence. But the self is eternal and all-pervading. It can never be non-existent in space or time. It is therefore said here that the self is not the counter-correlative of non-existence.

Note-2: Even when the world is experienced, the self is the only reality. The world has no reality, but appears to be real only because of the substratum, self or pure consciousness, just as the unreal silver appears to exist only because of the substratum, nacre. Even when the silver appears to exist, there is really nothing but nacre. This is what is stressed here.

29. A doubt may arise here. Since it is admitted that the self is of the nature of consciousness, and since there is no consciousness during deep sleep as seen from the fact that a person who wakes up from deep sleep recollects that he was totally ignorant and knew nothing during sleep, how can the self be said to be a constant factor (in all the three states)? In reply to this it is said "Its existence can be clearly established only in the state of deep sleep".

Note: Though the self exists in all the three states, it cannot be known by itself in the waking and dream states because of the presence of the limiting adjuncts in the form of the mind and senses. In deep sleep these adjuncts are not there and only the self exists.

30. This is the meaning: Since the self is the witness in deep sleep, it is not non-existent then. If it were, the recollection, "I was ignorant" would not be possible. Even though the knower, means of knowledge, knowledge and the object known vary, the witness of their existence and non-existence remains unchanged in all the three periods of time.

Note: When a person says, "I know this", the self is the witness of his knowledge. When he says, "I do not know this", the self is again the witness of his absence of knowledge.

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