Siddhantabindu - 5
by Madhusudana Sarasvati
[Commentary on Dasasloki of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada]
91. Obj: Since Brahman is unfailingly self-luminous, it is omniscient. So how can there be a veil of ignorance covering it?
92. Answer: It is true that Brahman is omniscient because it illumines everything that is connected with it. But it is described as covered because it is the content (object) of the ignorance of the jiva who is limited by the mind. Therefore, in the view that Brahman is the cause of the universe the purpose of the vritti is to connect the knower-consciousness and for removing the covering. In the view that the jiva is the cause of the universe, the vritti is only for removing the veil of ignorance.
93. Obj: By a single knowledge such as that of a pot the covering of ignorance is removed and so there should be immediate liberation because there is only one ignorance. Even in the view that ignorances are manifold, each jiva has only one ignorance as limiting adjunct and so the same should apply.
94. Answer: No, because the veil of ignorance is said to be only suppressed (rendered powerless) by the vritti (and not destroyed), just as a gem which obstructs the heat of fire is counteracted by a mantra and made incapable of obstructing the heat. The ignorance which operates before the rise of a mental modification (vritti) generated by a pramana and which (ignorance) has the capacity to create the notion that a particular object does not exist and is not perceptible even when that object actually exists and is perceptible, is what is called a veil (or covering). When the vritti arises, the capacity of the ignorance to create such a wrong notion is stultified and so it is as good as the ignorance not existing even though it does exist, because it is rendered incapable of achieving its purpose of veiling the object..Therefore it is said to be suppressed.
Note: The idea is that when an object becomes known the ignorance that covered it previously is not destroyed but is only rendered powerless to conceal that particular object. Since the ignorance is not destroyed it continues to conceal Brahman. So the contention that when a pot is known the ignorance covering Brahman should also be destroyed is not tenable.
95. Obj: If that is so, then since avidya will not be destroyed even by the knowledge of Brahman (as one's real nature), there can be no liberation at all.
Note: Since it was stated that the knowledge of an object such as pot does not destroy the ignorance covering the pot but only makes it powerless temporarily, even knowledge of Brahman cannot destroy nescience permanently and so permanent liberation is not possible. This is the objection.
96. Answer: It is not so, because it is accepted that avidya is destroyed by the knowledge of the meaning of the mahavakyas such as 'Thou art that'. It destroys avidya because it is valid knowledge of Brahman which is the content of avidya. The knowledge of the import of the mahavakyas alone is valid knowledge because its content is never contradicted. The knowledge acquired through means of knowledge such as perception relates to things which are liable to be negated and it is therefore an illusion, but from the empirical standpoint it is considered to be valid knowledge. The fact that the destruction of ignorance by knowledge (as opposed to mere suppressing) is not seen anywhere else (except in the case of Brahman-knowledge) is of no consequence, because the destruction of nescience by Brahman-knowledge is a matter of actual experience (by the enlightened). Since this (experience) is not otherwise accountable, the conclusion that avidya is destroyed by Brahman-knowledge is most valid. It has been said: "If it (the actual state of affairs) cannot be accounted for otherwise, the proposition that accounts for the actual state of affairs crushes the objection to accepting what is not seen elsewhere; that alone is most powerful".
Note: The content of nescience or the primary ignorance (moola-ajnaana) is Brahman itself. The mahavakyas impart the knowledge of Brahman. So this knowledge destroys nescience. Since Brahman alone is real, Brahman-knowledge alone is valid knowledge from the absolute (paaramaarthika) standpoint. All things in the world are found to be unreal when enlightenement is attained and so the knowledge of such things is only illusory, though it is considered to be valid from the empirical standpoint.
97. Or, (taking the view held by some previous teachers that knowledge of an object destroys the ignorance covering the object and does not merely suppress it), the ignorances that cover objects such as pot are only modes of the primal ignorance. Since ignorance is in the position of an antecedent non-existence of knowledge, it has to be accepted that there are as many ignorances as there are knowledges. Since only one ignorance is destroyed by one knowledge, though the veil of ignorance covering an object such as pot is destroyed by the knowledge of the particular object, there is no illogicality (in the view that ignorance of Brahman cannot be destroyed by the destruction of the ignorance covering an object).
Note: It is to be noted that 'ignorance covering an object' means 'ignorance covering the consciousness limited by the object'. See para 80 above.
98. Obj: Is the covering removed by any of the means of knowledge (other than perception) such as inference, etc, or is it not? In the first alternative (if it is removed), even the erroneous perception such as the yellowness of a conch should be removed by the inferential knowledge that a conch is white. Confusion about the directions should also cease by inference, etc. Since the cause of the illusion is the ignorance of the substratum, the illusion should cease when the ignorance of the substratum ceases. By the same reasoning the ignorance of Brahman should cease by the mere inferential knowledge of Brahman based on reasoning and there will be no need for hearing, reflection, etc., for attaining realization. In the second alternative, knowledge of fire (from the sight of smoke) will not arise, because the obstruction in the form of the covering continues.
Note: When smoke is seen on a distant hill the presence of fire is inferred. The question asked here is, "Does this inference result in the removal of the covering of avidya on the fire or does it not"? If it does, then the fire itself should be perceptible, but it is not. Here the Siddhanti may get out of the problem by pointing out that the non-perceptibility of the fire is because of the absence of contact of the eye with the fire. But take the case of a conch which appears yellow to a person because he is suffering from jaundice. He knows that the conch is white by inference in the form 'This is a conch, and so it must be white". But because of this inferential knowledge the conch does not appear white to him, but continues to appear yellow. Here there is contact between the eye and the conch and so the reason given for non-perceptibility in the case of fire cannot apply here. So it means that the cover of avidya on the conch has not been removed. The same applies in the case of confusion of direction. The confusion does not cease merely because some respected person tells him what the direction is (the statement of such a person is sabda pramana, but it does not help). In both these cases, the cover of avidya is not removed by inferential knowledge. Moreover, if inferential knowledge can remove the covering of avidya, the mere inferential knowledge about Brahman obtained by reasoning should be sufficient for attaining realization and there would be no need for hearing, reflection etc. So the first alternative, that inferential knowledge removes the covering of avidya, does not stand. Taking the second alternative. if it is said that inferential knowledge does not remove the covering, it would mean that the existence of fire cannot be known even where smoke is seen. Thus both the alternatives are untenable. This is the contention of the opponent. This is answered in the next paragraph.
99. Answer: The covering is of two kinds. One is that which gives rise to the notion that a thing does not exist; this is located in, and covers, the witness-consciousness limited by the internal organ (mind). The other is that which generates the notion that a thing is not manifest; it is located in, and covers, the Brahman-consciousness limited by the object. In the cognition 'I do not know the pot' it is seen that both these coverings, (namely, that on the knower-consciousness and that on the object-consciousness) are there.
Note: In direct perception (pratyaksha) as well as in indirect cognition (paroksha) there has to be a modification of the mind (vritti) of the form of the object. However, in direct perception the vritti is of the mind which has gone to the object through the appropriate sense organ. In indirect cognition, since there is no means by which the mind can go to the place where the object is (since the sense organs are not in contact with the object), the vritti is of the mind which remains in its own place inside the body. In direct perception, since the consciousness limited by the knower becomes identified with the consciousness limited by the object, the covering on the knower-consciousness which is the cause of the idea of non-existence of the object, as well as the covering on the object-consciousness which is the cause of the idea that the object is not manifest, both are removed. Then both the cognitions, 'the pot exists' and 'the pot is manifest' arise. In indirect cognition through inference and all the means of knowledge other than pratyaksha, only the covering on the knower-consciousness is removed and not the covering on the object-consciousness. So only the cognition 'the object exists' arises and not the cognition 'the object is manifest'. Thus when a conch appears to be yellow to a person suffering from jaundice, though the whiteness of the conch is known by inference, the covering on the conch is not removed, since there is only an indirect perception of the conch as white by inference. So the conch continues to be seen as yellow until the jaundice is cured.
100. There the first notion (that the object does not exist) is removed by direct as well as indirect cognition. It is seen that even in inference (from smoke) a cognition that there is no fire, etc., does not arise.
101. The second (that the object is not manifest) is removed only by direct perception. The rule is that the knowledge which has a particular locus and a particular content destroys only the ignorance which is in the same locus and has the same content. Since in indirect cognition there is no contact between the sense organ and the object, it is located only in the mind. There arises contact between the sense organ and the object only in direct perception, and so the knowledge is located in both the object and the mind in this case. It has been said: "The cause of the notion that the object does not exist is removed by indirect cognition. The cause of the notion that the object is not manifest is removed by direct perception". Therefore, since the covering which creates the notion of non-existence of the object is destroyed by inference, etc., the cognition that the object exists arises. Since the covering which causes non-manifestation of the object is not destroyed (by inference, etc.), the erroneous perception, which is due to a cause (namely, the jaundice in the case of the conch appearing as yellow) does not cease. Therefore, the attribution of agency and enjoyership, which are the qualities of the mind, to the Self which is devoid of all qualities, because of identification of the Self with the mind due to nescience, is understandable.
102. Obj: Since you (Advaitin) adopt the theory of anirvachaniyakhyati, according to which the superimposed thing is neither real nor unreal but is indescribable, it follows that the qualities of agency, etc., superimposed on the Self are indescribable and arise in the Self. Consequently, agency, enjoyership, etc., should be of two kinds, namely, empirical and illusory.
Note: The silver that is superimposed on a shell is anirvachaniya, indescribable as real or unreal. It has only illusory reality (praatibhaasika satta). The actual silver elsewhere has empirical reality (vyaavahaarika satta). Thus silver is of two kinds. The contention of the opponent is that, similarly, the qualities of agency, etc., which exist in the mind should have empirical reality and the same qualities superimposed on the Self should have only illusory reality
103. Answer: No, because the two are not discriminated because of the superimposition of the qualities on the Self (This answer is on the basis that the qualities are superimposed on the Self separately from the mind). The alternative explanation is that the mind with all the qualities is itself superimposed on the Self. In both cases there cannot be two kinds of agency, etc as contended by the opponent.
104. Thus it has been logically explained how the one Self can be the means of knowledge, the object of knowledge, the knowledge itself and the knower because of different limiting adjuncts. Therefore this is not the same as Vijnanavada (as contended by the opponent - see para 51 above); nor is there any self-contradiction. Other such divisions will also be explained clearly in the sequel. Therefore, since the Self which is of the nature of pure consciousness remains constant in the state of deep sleep and since the body, senses, etc., are inconstant as well as objects of perception, the theories of various schools according to which various other entities are the Self are erroneous. Thus it is established that the Upanishadic view alone is valid.
End of commentary on sloka 1.
Commentary on sloka 2:
105. The opponent may now say: "Let it be as you (Advaitin) say. But if the self is devoid of all qualities and the activities such as being a knower, etc., are based on superimposition, the statements in the Vedas such as 'a Brahmana may perform a sacrifice' will lose their validity. There is no possibility of action by the self which is neither a doer nor an enjoyer. If the Vedas lose their validity, how can the nature of Brahman be known, since Brahman can be known only through the Vedas, as is evident from Brahmasutra, 1.1.3, which says that the scriptures are the means for knowing Brahman. Therefore, in order that the Vedas may retain their validity, the activities such as knowership must be accepted as real". Anticipating such an objection the Advaitin asks whether the Vedas are claimed to become invalid before the attainment of self-knowledge or after?
106. In the first alternative, since all means of knowledge are meant for those who are still under the control of nescience, and since identification with the body, etc., is not negated at that stage, there is no obstacle to their validity. In the second alternative, that is, after the attainment of self-knowledge, the invalidity of the Vedas is acceptable to us, as seen from the following verse: "Neither the division into castes and stages of life, nor the rules of conduct and duties of the various castes and stages of life apply to me. I have no need for dharana, dhyana or yoga, etc. Since the notions of 'I' and 'mine' which are due to identification with the not-self have gone, I remain as the one auspicious self free from all attributes". Caste means Brahmana, etc. The stages of life are Brahmacharya, etc. The rules of conduct relate to bathing, purity, etc. The duties are celibacy, service to the Guru, etc. Dharana means steadiness of the mind after withdrawal from external objects. Dhyana means contemplation of the supreme Self. Yoga means restraint of the modifications of the mind. By 'etc.' hearing, reflection, etc., are meant. The reason for the absence of all these after the dawn of knowledge is the removal of the notions of 'I' and 'mine' which are based on the not-self. The not-self is nescience which is opposed to the realization of the self. Since nescience which is the basis and the cause of the identifications in the form of 'I' and 'mine' is totally uprooted by the knowledge of the reality, the ideas of caste, stage of life, etc., which are born of nescience do not exist any longer.
End of commentary on sloka 2.
Commentary on sloka 3:
107. Since the notions of caste, stage of life, etc., are based only on false knowledge (which results in identification with the body, etc.,), it is pointed out that when that (false knowledge) is not there, such notions also do not exist, as in the state of deep sleep. In order to establish the falsity of the knowledge it is said: The srutis say that in deep sleep there is no mother, nor father, nor gods, nor the worlds, nor the Vedas, nor sacrifices, nor holy places. Nor is there total void, since I exist then as the one auspicious self free from all attributes".
108. 'Mother' means the female progenitor. 'Father' means the male progenitor. 'Gods' means those who are to be worshipped, such as Indra. 'Worlds' means the results of the worship of the gods, such as the attainment of heaven. 'Vedas' means the authoritative statements which describe the means of attaining what is good and avoiding what is evil, which cannot be known through the worldly means of knowledge and those statements which instruct about Brahman. 'Sacrifices' are the means of attaining heaven, etc., such as jyotishtoma. 'Holy places' are the places fit for sacrifices, such as Kurukshetra. Similarly, the absence (in deep sleep) of every thing that is the cause of sin should also be considered as implied here. The idea is that, since all these are the result of identification with the body, in the absence of such identification these do not exist, since the self by itself has no association with these.
109. Thus the sruti says with regard to the state of deep sleep - "In this state the father is no father, the mother is no mother, the worlds are no worlds, the gods are no gods, the Vedas are not Vedas, a thief is no thief, the killer of a Brahmana is no more such a killer, a chandala (one who is born to a Sudra father and Brahmana mother) is no chandala, a paulkasa (one born to a Sudra father and a kshatriya mother) is no paulkasa, an ascetic is no ascetic, a hermit is no hermit; in this state one is not touched by virtue or vice, for he is then beyond all the sorrows of the heart" (Br. up. 4.3.22). Such statements stress the cessation of all evils when there is no identification with the body.
110. Obj: If there is absence of all such relationships then it would be only a void.
111. The answer is - No, because total non-existence of the self in deep sleep has been denied. The idea is that the denial refers emphatically to the condition of being non-existent. If there is only void in the state of deep sleep then waking up again would not be possible. All that happens is that the self is not associated with the sense organs in deep sleep. From the sruti statements such as "This self is indeed imperishable and indestructible" (Br. up. 4.5.14), "He does not see then, because though seeing he does not see; the sight of the seer can never be lost, because it is imperishable. But then there is no second entity separated from it which he can see" (Br.up. 4.3.23), it follows that the self that is consciousness is not non-existent (or mere void) in deep sleep. Though this has already been denied earlier while rejecting the Buddhist doctrine of the void (see para 23 above), it is denied again, following the principle of "shaking the pole".
Note: When a pole is to be fixed on the ground, the person fixing it tries to shake it to see if it has been firmly fixed.
112. Or, (since the Buddhist doctrine of the void has already been rejected in para 23 and so it is not necessary to refute it again), another meaning can be given. The meaning is that Brahman is beyond hunger, etc., (hunger and thirst, grief and delusion, old age and death), is without a second, and is beyond the void. Thus in deep sleep the jivatma is of the nature of Brahman. The sruti says: "When a person sleeps he becomes united with Existence" (Ch. up. 6.8.1), "Just as a man, tightly embraced by his dear wife, does not know anything at all, either outside or inside, similarly this infinite entity (the self) closely embraced by the supreme Self, does not know anything at all, either outside or inside" (Br. up. 4.3.21). Therefore, since the jiva is united with Brahman which is the cause of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent, infinite bliss and consciousness, it follows that the jiva is not a transmigrating entity.
End of commentary on sloka 3.
Commentary on sloka 4:
113. Thus. in three verses the import of the term 'thou' has been determined after refuting other contradictory views. Now the meaning of the term 'that' is to be similarly determined. The contradictory views that have to be refuted for this purpose are being indicated below.
114. Obj: The jiva cannot be identified with Brahman. This is explained. Brahman which is the cause of the universe and is denoted by the term 'sat' is described by statements such as "O dear one, in the beginning (before creation) this (universe) was 'sat' (existence) alone" (Ch.up. 6.2.1). The Sankhyas hold that the cause of the universe is 'Pradhana' which is insentient. The Pasupatas say that that Pasupati alone is the cause of the universe and that, though he is sentient, he is different from the jiva and is to be worshipped by the jiva (Thus there is the difference in the form of worshipper and worshipped between the two). The followers of Pancharatra say that Lord Vasudeva is the cause of the universe; from him is born the jiva, Sankarshana; from him Pradyumna, the mind is born; from him Aniruddha, the ego. Therefore, jiva, being an effect, cannot be absolutely non-different from its cause, Vasudeva (or Brahman). (The relationship between cause and effect is difference-cum-non-difference. A pot is different from clay as a pot, but non-different as clay). The Jainas and the Tridandins are of the view that Brahman is subject to change, is eternal, omniscient, both different and non-different from the jiva. The Mimamsakas say that there is no such thing as Brahman endowed with omniscience, etc. Since the Vedas have action (in the form of rituals) as their purport, they do not have such a Brahman as their purport, but, like the statement, "Meditate on speech as a cow", the cause of the universe, which is the atoms, etc., or the jiva is to be worshipped. The Tarkikas hold that there is an Isvara who has eternal knowledge, etc., who is omniscient, and who is to be inferred from the effects such as the earth; he is certainly different from the jiva. The Saugatas (Buddhists) say that the cause is momentary and omniscient. The followers of Patanjali say that Isvara is untouched by sources of sorrow, action, fruition, and mental impressions, is of the nature of eternal knowledge, is omniscient because of being reflected in the sattvaguna aspect of Pradhana, and is different from the transmigrating individual. The followers of the upanishads hold that Brahman is non-dual supreme bliss and that is the real nature of the jiva also. The efficient as well as material cause of the universe is Brahman qualified by omniscience, etc., because of Maya.
115. Thus there being so many conflicting views, there arises doubt about the meaning of the term 'that'. In order to determine the correct meaning according the upanishads, which are the only basis left after rejecting the other views, the revered Acharya says: "Neither the Sankhya view, nor the Saiva, nor the Pancharatra, nor the Jaina nor the Mimamsaka view, etc., is tenable. Because of the realization of the partless Brahman generated by the Mahavakya, Brahman is absolutely pure (untainted). I remain as the one auspicious self free from all attributes".
116. The views of schools not specifically mentioned in the above verse should also be considered as rejected. The insentient Pradhana cannot certainly be the cause of the universe. The statement--It willed, "May I become many, may I procreate" (Ch. 6.2.3) says that creation was preceded by the will (to create). By the statement, "Let me create names and forms by entering as this jivatma" (Ch. 6.3.2), the assumption of the form of the jivatma by Brahman is mentioned. Statements such as, "That by which what has not been heard about becomes heard, what has not been thought about becomes thought of, what was not known becomes known" (Ch. 6.1.3), "That, knowing which everything becomes known" (Mund. 1.1.3) proclaim that by knowing one thing everything becomes known. By knowing Pradhana, those things of which it is not the cause, such as the Purusha, cannot be known (since by knowing a cause such as clay, only its effects such as pot can be known, but not other things). The identity of the jiva and Brahman has been declared nine times by the statement,"All this has that (Brahman) as its self, that is the Reality, that is the self, that thou art" (Ch. 6.8.7). Another sruti says, "From that which is this self, space was born" (Taitt. 2.1.1). The insentient Pradhana cannot be the cause of the universe because it cannot produce such a variegated creation. Moreover there is no authority in the scriptures for the view that Pradhana or Mahat, etc., is the cause. So the Sankhya view is not tenable.
117. Thus the Paasupata, Paancharaatrika, and Jaina views are not valid because they are contradicted by sruti and reasoning. The Mimamsaka view that the sruti does not propound Brahman (as its main purport) because it is subservient to injunctions is also not tenable. (The Mimamsakas hold that Brahman is spoken of in the upanishads only for the purpose of upasana or worship because the object of the sruti is the performance of ritualistic actions and meditations for the purpose of the fulfillment of various desires). The subservience (of the upanishads) to the injunctions (in the karma kanda) is not established. The section (in Purvamimamsa) relating to 'Arthavada' does not support the claim of the Mimamsakas that the upanishads are subservient to the injunctions of the karma kanda, because there is no similarity (between the Arthavadas in the karma kanda and the statements about Brahman in the upanishads). An Arthavada which by itself is not productive of any result has to be attributed a meaning which will make it purposeful. For example, an Arthavada such as, "Vayu is indeed the fastest deity" (Tai.Samhita. 2.1.1) which is otherwise not explainable as forming part of the injunction to study one's own branch of the Veda, has to be attributed some meaning by which it will become endowed with a purpose. An injunction requires for its fulfillment words prompting the performance of a sacrifice, and the specification of the instrument with the help of which the rite is to be performed, as well as of the manner of its performance. In such a situation an Arthavada (such as the one mentioned above) is interpreted as praise of the deity to whom the oblations are made. Thus the Arthavada and the injunction for the performance of a sacrifice are considered as having the same objective and, taken together, they fulfill the requirements of the injunction. The situation is similar to that in which one charioteer has lost the horses yoked to his chariot, while another charioteer's chariot has been destroyed by fire. The two can continue to fight by yoking the horses of the second charioteer to the chariot of the first. This has been determined in the section relating to Arthavada as the method of interpretation to be adopted. Since the knowledge arising from the statements of Vedanta (the upanishads) directly give rise to the human goal of supreme bliss and total cessation of all sorrow, it does not depend on anything else and so it cannot be made subservient to anything else. On the contrary, the injunctions themselves become subservient to it by giving rise to purity of the mind (which is a necessary prelude to the dawn of knowledge). Therefore, since the knowledge arising from Vedanta is fruitful, is uncontradicted, and reveals what was not known previously, Vedanta is authoritative by itself. So since the existence of Brahman is thus definitely established, the Mimamsaka view is not tenable.
Note: 'Arthavada' has been defined in section 72 of the Arthasangraha of Laugakshi Bhaskara as "a sentence which aims at either the praise or the censure of something". One example is the sentence "Vayu is indeed the fastest deity". Since it forms part of the Veda it must have a purpose. The injunction to study the Veda implies that every sentence in it must have a purpose. Statements like the one above appear to be without any purpose and so they have to be interpreted in such a way as to make them purposeful. This is done by associating an Arthavada with an injunction. There is an injunction, "One desirous of prosperity should sacrifice a white animal in honour of Vayu". When associated with this injunction the statement "Vayu is indeed the fastest deity" becomes a praise of Vayu and implies that sacrifice to Vayu will produce quick results. This method of interpretation has to be applied to Arthavadas in the karma kanda of the Vedas to make them purposeful. But this is not necessary in the case of statements in the upanishads which speak about Brahman, because these statements themselves lead to the realization of Brahman, which is the highest Purushartha. They do not need any injunction to become fruitful.