Siddhantabindu - 4
by Madhusudana Sarasvati
[Commentary on Dasasloki of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada]
61. Similarly, there is also the superimposition of consciousness on the ego and upto the gross body. This superimposition is only by association and it is known as samsarga adhyaasa. (Even this association is only by way of reflection of consciousness in the mind, because there cannot be any actual association between consciousness which is absolutely real and the mind which has only empirical reality. Because of this reflection, the mind appears to have sentiency of its own, just as the moon appears to have brightness because of the reflection of the sun's light on it).
Note: Superimposition is of two kinds. When a rope is mistaken for a snake, the snake alone is seen. The existence of the rope is not known at all. Here the snake is said to be superimposed on the rope. This is known as svaroopa-adhyaasa. The second kind of superimposition is when a crystal appears to be red in the proximity of a red flower. Here both the crystal and the flower are seen as existing, and the redness of the flower is attributed to the crystal also. This is known as samsarga-adhyaasa. Both these kinds of superimposition are present in the mutual superimposition of the self and the non-self. Because of the superimposition of the not-self on the self, the existence of the self is not recognized at all, and the not-self, (that is, the body, mind and organs), is alone recognized as existing. This is svaroopa-adhyaasa. In the superimposition of the self on the not-self, only the consciousness of the self is attributed to the body, mind and organs. This is samsarga-adhyaasa.
62. There is gradation in attachment depending on the gradation in proximity between the substratum and what is superimposed. It is said by the Vartikakara (Suresvaracharya): "The son is dearer than wealth, one's own body is dearer than the son, the senses are dearer than the body, the mind is dearer than the senses, the self is dearer than the mind and is the most loved". (Brihadaranyakopanishad bhashya vartikam, 1.4.1031) Pinda - the physical body; prana- the inner organ (mind); That the senses are dearer than the physical body is patent from the common experience of a person instinctively closing his eyes at the fall of a weapon or when there is a sudden downpour. Because of the mutual superimposition, the consciousness and the inert (self and not-self) become bound together (and appear as one inseparable whole). If it is said that there is superimposition of only one entity on another, (and not mutual superimposition of two entities), then the other (the entity on which there is superimposition) will not be perceived (just as the rope is not perceived when there is superimposition of snake on it). In a delusion, only that which is superimposed is perceived. There has therefore necessarily to be mutual super-imposition as in the case of the erroneous group cognition in the form 'These are tin and silver'.
63. Since the consciousness remains as the ultimate entity when all else is negated, there is no possibility of this view being equated with the theory of the void. This is because superimposition is the appearance of the association of the real and the unreal. Therefore, every subsequent superimposition of the ego has as its cause an earlier superimposition. This is beginningless like the seed and the sprout. The superimposition of nescience is, however, only one, and it has no beginning.
Note: Consciousness (or Brahman) is alone real. The ego, etc., are superimposed as such on consciousness. Like the snake superimposed on a rope, they are not real and are therefore negated when the self is realized. But consciousness is not superimposed as such on the ego, etc. Only its quality, sentience, is superimposed. So, even when the ego, etc., are negated, consciousness remains as such. Only the false notion that the ego, body, etc., themselves have sentience is removed and it is realized that the sentience is due only to consciousness. In superimposition the consciousness, which is real, appears to be associated with the ego, etc., which are not absolutely real, but have only empirical reality. A rope can be mistaken for a snake only when the person has previously seen a snake somewhere else, and not otherwise. The mental impression of the snake seen elsewhere previously is the cause of his mistaking the rope for a snake. So the question arises, how can the ego be superimposed unless the person has experienced the ego before? The answer to this is that he had experienced the ego in a previous birth. That again is due to his experience in an earlier birth. This chain is beginningless, like the seed and the sprout. The fact that the ego was not real in past births cannot affect this theory, because there is no rule that only a real thing can create a mental impression. Even a person who has seen a snake only in a picture can have a mental impression of it, which may make him mistake a rope for a snake. As far as avidya is concerned, it is only one and no beginning can be postulated for it. Nobody says, "Ignorance has now arisen in me", though one does say, "This knowledge has now come to me". Its superimposition is also therefore beginningless.
64. Obj: If superimposition of nescience has no beginning, then the definition given by the author of the Bhashya that superimposition is the appearance elsewhere, similar in nature to recollection, of a thing seen previously, will be contradicted, because that definition speaks of the origin of a mental impression of the nature of recollection.
Note: When superimposition is defined as being of the nature of recollection, it means that it cannot be beginningless, because a recollection must have a beginning. This is the objection.
65. Ans: No, because that definition is (only) in respect of the superimposition of an effect. The definition which applies to both (super-imposition of cause as well as effect) is merely, "The appearance of one thing in (or as) another thing". Or, in view of the words 'combining the real and the unreal' in the Bhashya, the definition of superimposition according to this system is 'the appearance of the real and the unreal in combination''. This definition does not fail to cover the superimposition of the cause also. Since the superimposition of the effect is beginningless in a continuous succession like the seed and the sprout, there is no defect.
Note: The cause is nescience. It is always one and the same and is beginningless. The ego, etc. are the effects. This is also beginningless, but the continuity is from one ego to another and then to yet another and so on, like the sprout from the seed and the seed from the sprout.
66. Superimposition having been thus established, distinctions such as jiva and Isvara, even though there is nothing but one self (as the only reality), become logically tenable. So also, distinctions such as means of knowledge and object of knowledge, become logically tenable.
Note: According to Advaita, there is only one reality, Brahman-Atman, which is pure consciousness. Therefore the question arises, how can there be a multiplicity of jivas and an Isvara different from them? The answer is that these are not real entities like Brahman - Atman, but only superimpositions and therefore mithya like the rope-snake.
67. The self, with nescience as limiting adjunct, is not discriminated from its own reflection in nescience (chidabhasa) which has become identified with nescience. It is therefore described as inner controller, witness, the cause of the universe, and Isvara. Because of non-discrimination from its own reflection in the intellect, which has become identified with the intellect, the same self is known as jiva, agent, enjoyer, and knower. This is the view of the revered Vartikakara (Sureshvaracharya).
Note: "According to Sureshvara Isvara and jiva are the reflections of pure consciousness, i.e. Brahman, in avidya and intellect respectively. He further holds that the reflection in entirety is false or indeterminable either as sentient or as insentient. Isvara, although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the consciousness that serves as the original and is viewed as the creator of the universe. Jiva too, although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the pure consciousness that serves as the original and is viewed as the agent, enjoyer, etc. This theory is known as aabhaasa-vaada. The primary meanings of both the terms are indeterminable and hence they must be discarded. The terms totally abandon their primary senses and secondarily signify the pure consciousness with which their primary senses are falsely identified. Sureshvara thus adopts the secondary signification known as jahallakshana". (From Preceptors of Advaita, Samata edition, p.72).
68. Since the intellect in each body is different, the reflection of consciousness is also different. Therefore the consciousness identified with it also appears to be different. Nescience is however the same everywhere and so there is no difference in the consciousness reflected in it. So the witness-consciousness which is not discriminated from it does not ever appear different; i.e. it is only one.
Note: There are innumerable jivas because there are innumerable intellects. But there is only one nescience and so Isvara is only one.
69. According to this view (aabhaasa-vaada) the identity of 'That' and 'Thou' is only through exclusive secondary signification (jahal-lakshana), because the primary meaning of the limiting adjunct with the reflection of consciousness in it is totally abandoned and the reflection, being different from both sentient and insentient, is indeterminable. It has been said in Samkshepasariraka: If the words 'Brahman' and 'aham' primarily signify respectively avidya with the reflection of consciousness in it and the ego (intellect with the reflection of consciousness in it), then jahallakshana (exclusive secondary signifi-cation) has to be resorted to (for getting the import of the statement 'aham Brahma asmi'). (I.169).
Note: Jahallakshana is applied when the primary meaning of a word has to be abandoned totally, as in the sentence "There is a hamlet on the Ganga". Here the literal meaning of the word 'Ganga' cannot apply because there can be no hamlet on the river itself. So the word is interpreted as 'the bank of Ganga'. In the present case, the primary meanings of the words 'Brahman' and 'aham' do not include pure consciousness which is the original (bimba). The primary meanings are, respectively, avidya with the reflection of consciousness in it and the intellect with the reflection of consciousness. Both these are indeterminable as either real or unreal. The reflection is indeterminable as either sentient or insentient. Therefore the primary meanings have to be abandoned and pure consciousness which is the basis for both has to be accepted as the meaning. The same is the case with the sentence "That thou art'.
70. It cannot be said that, since bondage is only for the reflection and liberation is only for the pure consciousness, the locations of bondage and liberation are different; and that no one would make an effort for his own destruction. This is because bondage has been attributed to the pure consciousness itself, through the reflection. It has been said by the revered Vartikakara: "This alone is our bondage that we look upon ourselves as a transmigrating entity".
Therefore, the reflection of pure consciousness is itself the bondage and its cessation is liberation. There is nothing inconsistent in this.
Note: Identification of the jiva with the reflection of consciousness in the intellect, which is due to nescience, is bondage. The cessation of this identification is liberation.
71. Or, pure consciousness not discriminated from the reflection is also (to be included in) the primary sense of the terms 'That' and 'Thou'. In that case, since a part of the sense is not abandoned, there is no inconsistency in holding that exclusive-cum-inclusive secondary implication is to be adopted. It is this view that is spoken of as aabhaasa-vaada.
Note: The alternative view stated here is that the primary senses of the terms 'That' and 'Thou' include pure consciousness in addition to the reflecting media (avidya and intellect) and the reflections in them. To arrive at the identity of these two, one part, namely, pure consciousness, is to be retained and the other part, namely, the reflecting media and the reflections, is to be abandoned.
72. The view of the author of Vivarana is that pure consciousness limited by nescience is Isvara and is the original which is reflected. Pure consciousness reflected in nescience limited by the internal organ and its samskaras is the jiva.
73. The view of the author of Samkshepasariraka is that pure consciousness reflected in nescience is Isvara. Pure consciousness reflected in the intellect is the jiva. Pure consciousness not limited by nescience, which is the original is pure (Brahman).
74. According to both these views (Vivarana and Samkshepasariraka), jivas are different from one another because their intellects (minds) are different. Since the reflection is considered to be real, exclusive-cum-inclusive implication is to be resorted to for determining the sense of the terms 'That' and 'Thou', etc. This is known as the reflection theory.
75. According to Vachaspatimisra, pure consciousness which is the content (object) of nescience is Isvara. The locus of nescience is the jiva. In this view multiplicity of jivas is due to multiplicity of nescience. Thus the universe is different for each jiva, because the jiva is the material cause of the universe since it has nescience as limiting adjunct. The recognition of the universe as the same by all is due to extreme similarity. Isvara is metaphorically described as the cause of the universe because of being the substratum of the jivas, nescience and the universe. This is the limitation theory.
76. Pure consciousness which is the original (which is what is reflected), with nescience as its limiting adjunct is Isvara. The reflection of consciousness in nescience is the jiva. Or, pure consciousness not limited by nescience is Isvara. Consciousness limited by nescience is the jiva. This is the main Vedanta theory, known as the theory of a single jiva. This itself is called 'drishtisrishtivaada'.In this view the jiva himself is the material and efficient cause of the universe through his own nescience. All the objects perceived are illusory (like things seen in dream). The delusion that there are many jivas is only due to there being many bodies. Liberation is attained by the single jiva on realization of the self as a result of the perfection of hearing, reflection,etc, with the help of the Guru and the scriptures which are all conjured up by him. The statements about Suka and others having attained liberation are only by way of eulogy. In the Mahavakya the term 'That' signifies by implication consciousness not limited by nescience, like the terms 'infinite', 'reality', etc. Such differences in views within the main framework should be known by inference.
77. Obj: Since there cannot be different opinions about a real thing, how can such mutually contradictory views be valid? So, what view is to be accepted and what is to be rejected?
78. Who says that different opinions are not possible about a real thing? It is seen that the same object is seen as a pillar or a man or a demon, etc. If it is said that the views there are not correct, because they arise only in a person's mind, but this distinction as jiva, Isvara, etc, is based on the scriptures, then (the answer is):
79. You are indeed very clever. The scriptures have as their main purport the nature of the non-dual self, because that is what is fruitful and not known. The concepts of distinctions such as jiva, Isvara, etc., which are only creations of the human mind, are merely repeated by the scriptures, because they are useful for knowing the Reality. The maxim is that in the presence of what is fruitful, its auxiliary is not fruitful. Even the scriptures may state something that is merely the outcome of delusion (if that serves the main purpose). There is no possibilty of the knowledge of the non-dual reality being affected by this knowledge of duality (since non-duality alone is real).
Note: The knowledge of the non-dual Brahman alone is fruitful. The world of duality is mentioned only to help us to realize Brahman . Knowledge of duality does not therefore have any fruit by itself, and is only auxiliary to the knowledge of non-duality.
80. Even when the knowledge of duality such as the knowledge of a pot has arisen, only the knowledge of the 'non-dual existence' part which was previously not known can be considered to be valid. (The knowledge of the pot in the form 'The pot is' consists of the knowledge of its form together with its existence,. Of these two, only the existence part is real and the form is merely superimposed). Knowledge and ignorance must necessarily have the same locus and the same content. Ignorance cannot be considered to exist with regard to an inert object since no purpose is served by the application of a valid means of knowledge to it. Every means of knowledge becomes a valid means of knowledge only if it makes known a thing which was not known previously (i.e. which was covered by ignorance). An inert object is described as not known only because the consciousness limited by that object is not known. A valid means of knowledge is one that makes known what was not known. Otherwise even recollection would become valid knowledge.
Note: A valid means of knowledge is one which makes known what was previously not known, or, in other words, which removes the ignorance covering an object. Ignorance is what covers an object. A covering is necessary only when the object in question would be perceptible but for such covering. An inert object cannot shine by itself. It shines only because of the pure consciousness on which it is superimposed. So what ignorance has to cover is the underlying consciousness and not the superimposed object. Any object is in reality pure consciousness limited by that object. Knowledge of an object is really knowledge of the consciousness underlying the object. Thus both ignorance and knowledge have the pure consciousness as their locus as well as content. Recollection is of something already known previously and so it is not valid knowledge.
81. Thus, everywhere in Vedanta, when there are such contradictions, this is the answer. The Vartikakara says: "All the different means by which people can attain knowledge of the self should be understood to be valid. These means are unlimited in number".
Note: Different Acharyas have expressed different views about how the mahavakaya is to be understood. The followers of Sureshvara say that jahallakshana is to be adopted. The followers of Sarvajnatmamuni and Vachaspatimisra adopt ajahallakshana. Dharmaraja Adhvarindra, the author of Vedantaparibhasha interprets the vakya without resort to lakshana. But there is no difference as far as the ultimate import of the vakya is concerned. All agree that the vakya declares the identity of the jiva and Brahman. So all these methods of interpretation are acceptable.
82. We have declared hundreds of times that what is opposed to the import of the sruti (which is Brahman) should be rejected. Therefore such differences in views are of little consequence. The jiva undergoes transmigration because he is under the control of his limiting adjunct. Since the supreme Isvara controls his limiting adjunct, he has qualities such as omniscience. Thus the distinction between them is logically explained.
83. Obj: Let it be that the distinction between jiva and Isvara is due to the effect of nescience. But how do you explain the distinctions such as means of valid knowledge, object of knowledge, etc, with regard to different persons and different objects?
Note: It is our experience that every one does not know everything all the time. What one person knows, another person does not. The question is, how can there be such differences if everything is only one Brahman? That is to say, if the consciousness is the same in all persons, all should see all things at the same time. But this is not the case. 'Karma' in the above sentence means 'object' (as in grammar). Pratikarma means 'each object'.
84. Answer: Avidya, though limited, cannot stand scrutiny because it is indescribable, being an object of knowledge, inert, and perishable. Possessing the twin powers of concealment and projection, it covers the all-pervading self which is pure consciousness. It is like the finger placed in front of the eye concealing the orbit of the sun. If the eye itself were covered (by the finger), then the finger itself would not be seen. (So the finger does not cover the eye, but it covers only the sun which is much bigger). Projection (of an unreal object) cannot occur unless the substratum itself is covered. This avidya becomes modified as the entire universe as a result of the actions of the jivas prompted by the impressions of past actions. This avidya becomes identified with pure consciousness because of the reflection of the consciousness in itself. As a result, all the effects of avidya (the entire universe) become permeated by consciousness through its reflection.
85. Since consciousness is like a lamp which illumines everything within its range, the pure consciousness that is the cause of the universe illumines everything always without depending on any means of knowledge and it is therefore omniscient. Therefore there is no need of any distinction such as means of knowledge, object of knowledge, etc., with regard to it. But it is necessary in the case of the jiva, because he is limited by the intellect which is his limiting adjunct. Because of this, the jiva experiences only that object with which his mind, which has the capacity to take the reflection of consciousness, is associated (through the senses), and only at the particular time when it is so associated. Therefore there is no possibility of any mix-up.
Note: Isvara who is omniscient knows everything all the time. But a particular jiva experiences only that particular object with which his mind is in contact through the sense organs at a particular time. Therefore the objection that if there is only one consciousness then everybody must be able to see everything at the same time is refuted. The mind of each jiva is different and so the experience of each jiva is different from that of others.
86. Thus this is the method here. (This is how cognition of an object takes place). The internal organ (mind) which is inside the body, which pervades the whole body, which is created out of the subtle elements with a preponderance of sattvaguna, which is a modification of nescience, and which is extremely clear like a mirror, stretches out through the eyes and other sense organs, pervades objects such as a pot which are capable of being known, and takes the form of that object, just like molten copper (poured into a mould). Like the light of the sun, it (the mind) can suddenly contract or expand. (The light covers small as well as big objects). The mind, being a substance with parts, is capable of undergoing changes. It is inside the body, pervading it, and extends, without any break, up to the object such as pot, which it covers (by taking the form of the object), like the eye (just as the vision of the eye extends from the eye to the object without a break). The part of the mind which is within the body, which is called the ego, is known as the agent. The part that extends like a stick from the body to the object, which is called the cognition resulting from a mental modification (vritti-jnaana), is known as the action. The part of the mind that pervades the object is what makes the pot, etc., the object of knowledge. It is called the capacity to manifest.
87. Because of the capacity of the mind with these three parts to receive a reflection (like a mirror), consciousness becomes manifested (reflected) in it. Though the consciousness so manifested is only one, it is given three different names, based on the three-fold division of the mind in which it is reflected. The part that is limited by the portion called the agent is known as the knower. The part limited by the portion referred to above as the action is called the means of knowledge. The part covering the object, described above as the capacity to manifest, is called knowledge. The object to be known is the Brahman-consciousness which is the substratum of the object and which is unknown. The same, when known, is the phala or result.
88. In the school that holds the view that the jiva has the internal organ as limiting adjunct, as well as in the school in which the jiva is omnipresent, devoid of the relationship of identity-cum-difference with objects, and is a reflection in avidya, the mental modification serves to connect the knower-consciousness with the object and also to remove the veil of avidya covering the consciousness which is the substratum of the object. In the third school according to which the jiva is limited by avidya, is all-pervading, and covered (by avidya), since the jiva itself is the material cause of the universe and is therefore connected with all objects, the mental modification serves only to remove the covering of avidya (on the object-consciousness). This is the difference.
Note: Three different views on the nature of the jiva are considered here. The first is where the jiva is considered to be limited by the internal organ (mind). In this view the jiva is limited to the particular mind. The second view is that in which the jiva is a reflection of Brahman in avidya. In this view the jiva is all-pervading, because the reflection is considered to be identical with the original which is all-pervading. But the jiva is not the cause of the universe in this view because it is not the locus of the avidya that is the cause of the universe. Since it is not the cause of the universe, it cannot have the relationship of taadaatmya, identity-cum-difference with objects, which exists between the cause and its effect. So in both these views a connection between the mind and the object has to be brought about and for this a vritti is necessary. In addition this vritti removes the covering of avidya which veils the pure consciousness limited by the particular object. Thus the vritti serves two purposes.
The third view is that of Vachaspatimisra in Bhamati, according to which the jiva is considered to be limited by avidya (the limitation theory) and the jiva is the locus of avidya. Since avidya is all-pervading, the jiva is also all-pervading in this view and the jiva is the creator of the universe, with the avidya located in it as the material cause. Being the material cause of the universe, (through avidya), the jiva is always connected with all objects in the universe which are its effects, by the relationship of taadaatmya. So a vritti is not necessary for connecting it with objects. A vritti is necessary only for removing the avidya which covers the object-consciousness.
89. Obj: If the purpose of the vritti is to connect the knower-consciousness with the object, then a vritti is not necessary for knowing merit and demerit (punya and paapa), etc., and also Brahman, because they are by their very nature connected with the mind, and so would be always perceptible without any vritti.
Note: Merit and demerit are in the mind itself and so they are always connected with the mind. The mind is always connected with Brahman because Brahman is all-pervading. Thus these are always connected with the mind. So what is the need for a vritti to connect them? This is the question.
90. Answer: That is not so because consciousness (limited by the mind) has not taken the forms of these. Not taking these forms is due to the fact that there is a covering (of avidya) even on Brahman-consciousness inspite of its being pure. In the case of nacre-silver, etc., which are not covered by avidya, it is because they do not have purity (or the capacity to reflect). In the case of merit and demerit it is because they are not capable of reflecting and also because they are covered. Therefore, even in respect of a thing which is pure (or is capable of reflecting), but is covered by avidya, the mind can take its form only through the operation of a means of knowledge. In respect of nacre-silver, etc., which are not capable of reflecting even though not covered by avidya, the mind can take its shape only through an avidya-vritti. As regards happiness, sorrow, etc., which are not covered and are capable of reflecting, they are by their very nature cognizable by the witness-consciousness. Therefore the mere connection of the mind with the object is not always sufficient for a thing to be perceived.
Note: For an object to be cognized, three things are necessary. The knower-consciousness should be connected with the object, the avidya that acts as a veil should be removed, and the object should be made capable of reflecting consciousness. Actually all objects are superimposed on pure consciousness and avidya covers pure consciousness. It is because of this covering of the substratum by avidya that an object remains unknown. A vritti of the mind not only brings about a connection between the knower-consciousness and the object, but in addition it removes the veil of avidya which covers the object-consciousness and makes the object capable of reflecting. Only then the object can be perceived. In the case of Brahman, a vritti is necessary for removing the veil of avidya. Illusory things like nacre-silver have no existence except when they are perceived. It is because of this that it has been said above that they are not covered by avidya. The function of a vritti in such cases is therefore not to remove a covering, but only to make the illusory thing capable of reflecting consciousness. The mind becomes modified into the form of an object only when the modification is brought about by a pramana.Illusory objects like nacre-silver are cgnized directly by the witness-consciousness (sakshi-pratyaksha). The modification of the mind in the form of illusory nacre-silver is not caused by a pramana since there is no contact of the eye with the illusory silver, but it is brought about by avidya. So it is an avidya-vritti that reveals the illusory silver. Merit, demerit, etc., are, by their very nature, incapable of being known.