[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge - 15

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 13 21:07:52 CDT 2008

                 Knowledge and the Means of knowledge 15

We discussed in the post 12, Jiiva and Jiiva Saakshii, Iswara and Iswara Saakshii. In the subsequent posts we deviated from the main topic to address some of the issues that were raised during the discussion.  Now we return back to the main theme.  Jiiva and Jiiva Saakshii have to be understood clearly for self-realization.  Shree Sureswara spends the whole chapter discussing about saakshii in the Naishkarmya siddhi.  Jiiva Saakshii is the limiting witnessing consciousness, limited by the upaadhiis.  Example given is like a pot space limited by the pot walls, although space is limitless and indivisible and pot-space is connected to the total space as one.  Even the pot-walls are in space only.  The notion of pot-jiiva-hood arises when the pot identifying with the upaadhiis thinks that I am a small pot with a limited pot-space. Here besides the limitations, there is identification with the upaadhiis or pot walls, and taking the limitations of the pot as
 its limitations as I am a small-pot, and I wish I am also a big pot like the next door neighbor pot.  

Pure consciousness is all pervading, similar to space.  Similar to pot-space limited by the pot-walls, the consciousness (as-though) limited by the upaadhiis (Body-mind-intellect, BMI) is witnessing consciousness, saakshii, called ‘upahita caitanya’.  The consciousness is of the nature of eternal self-illumining entity. Just as the pot-space is not separate from the total space, the jiiva-saakshii or upahita caitanya is not separate from the total consciousness. Yet pot space is different from the total space in the sense that it appears to be limited by the pot walls.  Similarly jiiva saakshii of A is different from Jiiva-saakshii B.  In the presence of this self-illumining witnessing consciousness, jiiva saakshii,  the BMI upaadhiis get illumined and the reflected consciousness in the mind forms the knowledge of the mind. Up to this is common, for all including the jnaani.  Ignorance of jiiva comes into play, when I, the conscious entity,
 identifying with the reflecting consciousness in the intellect, take myself to be this intellect that is getting reflected in my presence.  This notion that ‘I am this’ is a thought or vRitti in the intellect only.  This identification with reflected consciousness is jiiva and is called cidaabhaasa or reflected consciousness.  


The formation of a jiiva therefore involves two entities – one is the reflection of the consciousness by the upaadhiis – here starting from intellect and then the mind and then the body.  This reflection occurs as long as upaadhiis are there, since illuminating consciousness is always there.  Ego or Jiiva-hood arises, not knowing that I am pure consciousness, when I identify myself with the limiting reflecting consciousness as I am this, where ‘this’ stands first for the intellect then the mind and then the gross body.  That identification includes then any modification of the body, mind and intellect. Thus jiiva is the limiting reflecting consciousness, cidaabhaasa, but identifying or qualifying itself as I am this where this stands for BMI.  Hence jiiva is called vishiShTa caitanya, in contrast to the upahita caitanya of saakshii. VishiShTa means qualifying or attributive consciousness where I, subject consciousness identifies myself with
 ‘this’, the object that I am conscious of. This identification also results in ownership as ‘this is mine’ – thus both ahankaara (I am this) and mamakaara (this is mine) get crystallized with the jiiva notion, which together is called ego.  Inclusion of ‘this is mine’ involves exclusion of ‘that is not mine’, and ‘that is not I’ and thus space-wise, time-wise and object-wise limitations get superimposed with the jiiva notion, by the superimposed identifications - addhaasa.  


Self realization is therefore recognition that I am not this – this being upaadhiis (BMI)- but I am the Saakshii which is the illuminating consciousness of the upaadhiis. Saakshii does not really illumine anything and it is just self-shining ever effulgent all pervading entity. However, in the presence of saakshii, upaadhiis get illumined.  Hence I am ‘not this’ since I am the subject and this is an object of my consciousness,  but I am pure existence-consciousness, that is ever present.  By dropping all visheShaNas or qualifications, I shift my identification from vishiShTa caitanya to upahita caitanya.  This shift is done in the buddhi only. I, a conscious entity, currently identifying myself with the BMI, drop that identification and recognize that I am the self-existing ever present saakshii or upahita caitanya.  When I shift my understanding that I am the saakshii, even the notion that I am saakshii also drops out (saakshii is there with
 reference to saakshyam or witness is there with reference to witnessed) and I recognize that I am pure eternal all pervading consciousness with no qualifications or limitations.  I become jiivan mukta.  Since the upaadhiis (BMI) are there, I can play the role of a jiiva knowing very well I am pure consciousness that illumines the upaadhiis. When the upaadhiis drop out, the upahita caitanya (saakshii) becomes one with the nirupaadhika caitanya (all pervading consciousness). It is like saying when the pot walls break the pot-space merges with the total space.  In reality pot-space is never separate from the total space and there is no real merger either. When the walls are broken, the limiting adjuncts are dropped out leaving all notions of divisions in the space.  Thus as long as the mind and intellect (subtle-body) remain, the limiting reflecting consciousness will take place and jiiva-hood remains, when there is no self-knowledge.  Meditation therefore
 involves shifting my attention from the identification that I am this to the witnessing consciousness, jiiva saakshii, because of which I am conscious of or have the knowledge of this (BMI). Since saaskhii is not an object for me to see (since I am the seer saakshii), I cannot objectify as I am not this but that.  All I can do is negate all my identifications as I am this by negating I am not this but I am the one who is the negator, who cannot be negated nor objectified. I am the knower, the pramaataa and this is known, prameyam. I am the pramaata or I am the subject knower, only when there is prameyam or object, separate from me, for me to know.  Recognition that this duality is superficial or adhyaasa imposed by the working of the mind and I am pure consciousness where there is neither pramaata, prameya nor pramaaNa is self-realization. The world is nothing but an assemblage of objects and they are known only when the perceptuality conditions are
 met.  Perceptuality condition is the subject consciousness is identified with the object-consciousness in the form of existence.  Shifting attention from the superficial names and forms, objects, to that identifying consciousness that I am (subject) is the essence of meditation. 

Iswara and Iswara saakshii

In the realization of that I am upahita caitanya or jiiva saakshii, there is also recognition that I am upahita caitanya only because of the presence of the upaadhiis. But my real nature is I am the all pervading consciousness that is one without a second. This knowledge arises from the vedantic knowledge that I am not only the existing-consciousness, but that existence-consciousness is one without a second.  Thus aham brahmaasmi teaching will sink in. It is like recognition that I am the pot-space also lead to an understanding that I am the total space too since space is part-less or division-less. This teaching comes from Vedanta.  Significance of this is also understood, since even the saaskhyam that I am conscious of is not separate from me.  In the perceptual process the object consciousness is identified with the subject consciousness for perceptuality to occur as discussed by VP. Hence VP says in the beginning of the analysis of perception that
 perceptual knowledge is nothing but pure consciousness.  In that understanding, jiiva, jiiva saakshii, Iswara and Iswara saakshii are merge into pure undifferentiated consciousness that I am.  With that understanding, the very life existence is fulfilled. Even the scriptures glorify such a realized person. Presence of such realized master is glorified as ‘kulam pavitram, jananii kRitaarthaa, vishvambharaa punyavatii ca tena’ – the whole family or lineage is blessed by his presence, his mother is fulfilled by having such a son, nay the whole country where he is born is blessed by this presence.  

Perceptuality of cognition:

We discussed before that when the perception of an object arises through the formation of vRitti, there is an immediate cognition of the object as ‘this is a pot’, when the vRitti is reflected by the light of consciousness of the saakshii, since reflected light is knowledge. Along with it, there is also knowledge of the cognition – that is I know this is pot also arises immediately.  For this knowledge of the cognition,  no further reflection is required since knowledge reveals itself or it is self-revealing. It is similar to the fact that we do not need a light to see the light since light is self revealing. Similarly the reflected illumination of the consciousness of the object-vRitti becomes a self-revealing cognition of the knowledge of that vRitti.  Thus the two fold nature of the perceptual knowledge is understood –it involves perception of the object – like this is a pot - and perception of the cognition of the perception as I know this
 is a pot. Thus we have two fold nature of the perception – perception of the object and the perception of the cognition of the object. With regards to the first – the perception of the object, we have discussed exhaustively the perceptuality condition and how vRitti forms in the mind based on attributive knowledge of the object as perceived by the senses.  With regards to the second, that is perceptuality of the cognition, VP says it is just consciousness alone. This is because when I say I know this is pot, pot is an object, which is inert and I am the knowing principle, the caitanya vastu. Inert entity cannot know. Since I say I am the knower of the pot, the knower I, or the subject I,  cannot be different from the conscious entity.  Hence VP declares that the perceptuality of the cognition is nothing but pure consciousness that I am.  When I cognize an object, say pot, I am knower and this is known – the duality of subject-object sets in with
 reference to the object known.  When there is no cognition of any object, I just remain as witnessing consciousness, without any qualification. Objectless-awareness is pure consciousness. 

Question: Is the above statement true for direct and immediate perception or true for other means of knowledge such as inference? For direct perception like this is pot, the perception of the pot is immediate and direct.  The resulting knowledge is also cognized immediately as I know this is pot.  When there is an indirect knowledge like the distant hill is on fire, does the cognition that the distant hill is on fire, is immediate and is due to subject consciousness, I am? 

Answer: Yes it applies to indirect perceptions too.  When I say that distant hill is on fire because I see the smoke, the cognition of the fire is not immediate.  Only the cognition of the hill, cognition of the smoke are immediate. But that the hill is on fire is based on the logical inference since we know from the past that wherever there is smoke, there is a fire that caused the smoke.  Hence when I conclude that the distant hill is on fire, the vRitti that is formed has no attributive content of the fire.  Hence it is indirect and mediate, not immediate.  When the vRitti that the hill is on fire is formed by inferential process, the knowledge of the vRitti is immediate as it forms, since it gets illumined by the witnessing consciousness, saakshii.  Then the cognition of that knowledge is also immediate since knowledge is self-revealing. Whatever that is self-revealing is pure consciousness.  Hence the above statements are applicable  even  for
 indirect knowledge.  

Question: Then the definition of perceptuality of the cognition is too broad since it can be extended to illusory knowledge also; for example for the cognition of silver where there is actually nacre.  

Answer:  It is not unduly broad since it extends even to the case of erroneous cognitions.  When I see silver erroneously since it is a nacre and not silver, cognition of silver is immediate since attributes of the silver alone are gathered by the senses and consequently vRitti with the silver attributive content is formed in the mind.  The knowledge that it is silver then is immediate.  The cognition of that knowledge that ‘I know it is silver’ is also immediate. Hence the above definition is not unduly broad and applies even for erroneous perceptions. 

We have defined the perception as pramaaNa if it is not negated by subsequent transmigratory experience or transactional experience.  That is, it is silver is valid knowledge unless it is contradicted by the subsequent transaction involving picking up the piece of silver and finding that is not silver but nacre.  The knowledge that it is nacre is gained by sense input of the attributes of the nacre that are different from the pure silver piece. The knowledge that it is nacre negates the previous knowledge that it is silver.  In the perception of nacre, that it is nacre and not silver is cognized along with the cognition of that perception – I know that is nacre and not silver.  Thus the definition applies to illusory knowledge as well, since when the illusory knowledge (that it is silver) was a valid knowledge based on the attributive content cognized at that time. It was negated only by subsequent perception.

In the final analysis, even the perceptual knowledge of the objects and thus the perception of world are negated when we move from transmigratory experience to transcendental experience. Within transmigratory experience, the relative validity of perceptual knowledge of objects is assumed to be valid since there is no transcendental experience to invalidate it. Thus vyaavahaarika satyam is satyam until satyasya satyam is recognized. 

In the above example VP brought the example of the error in cognition when we perceive silver where there is nacre.  The reason that we are seeing silver and not nacre is that when I see the shining object on the floor, there is only attributive knowledge of ‘silvery-shining’ by the sense of sight.   Therefore based on the limited attributes of the object, the VRitti that formed contains only the limited attributes perceived by the sense.  The cognition and the recognition based on the matching attributes of the silver are immediate, giving rise to the knowledge that it is a piece of silver out there.  Only when I bend and pick up the piece, I gather additional attributes by the senses based on which I negate that it is not silver (since the attributes are contradictory to silver attributes), but it is nacre since the attributes matches with that of nacre.  This is intrinsic in the limitation of the attributive knowledge of objects that errors are
 possible even when I am seeing the object since attributes that are gathered by the senses are incomplete, if not erroneous. 

Finally because I am getting carried away with the attributive knowledge of the world and not substantive knowledge, I can never gain the knowledge of absolute reality by perceptual process since absolute has no attributive content – nirguNa or guNaatiitaH. Hence negatability of the world as mithya or erroneous perception cannot be accomplished by any pramaaNa other than shabda pramaaNa or shaastra pramaaNa.

We will discuss more about the erroneous perceptions through objections in the next post. 

Hari Om!

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list