[Advaita-l] The nature of spiritual realisation

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 6 17:10:59 CDT 2003

Note: all translations are by Swami Gambhirananda, I've just made some
minor changes (such as "Self" for "soul" etc.). 

> Brahma sUtra 3.3.54:
> But this is not so; there is a distinction (between the Self and the
> body) because consciousness may not exist even when the body exists,
> as
> it is in the case of perception.
> -------------------------------------------------

Shankara's Commentary:

But the fact is not as it is stated, viz. that the Self is not distinct
from the body. For it must be distinct from the body, "since
consciousness does not exist even when the body is there". If from the
fact that the attributes of the Self exist when the body exists, you
infer that those attributes belong to the body, then why should it not
also be inferred that they are not attributes of the body owing to
their non-existence even when the body is present, they being different
from the characteristics of the body? For attributes like form (or
colour) etc. which belong to the body, may very well last as long as
the body persists; but such characteristics as the activites of the
vital force do not occur after death even though the body exists. And
such attributes of the body as form etc, are perceived by others
(outside the body), but not so are such characteristics of the Self
such as consciousness, memory etc. Moreover, the existence of these
attributes can be conclusively determined when the body continues
during a man's life, but their non-existence cannot be so determined
from the non-existence of the body. For even when this body has fallen,
perchance these attributes of the Self may well persist by transferring
themselves to some other body. Even (if this be a doubtful theory),
that doubt can well demolish the opposite point of view. And the
opponent has to be asked as to what he thinks the nature of this
consciousness to be that he would derive it from the elements. For the
materialists do not accepot any principle over and above the four
elemends (earth, water, fire, and air). 

Opponent: Consciousness is nothing but the perception of the elements
and the derivative of elements. 

Vedantin: In that case these elements etc. are objects of perception,
and hence consciousness cannot be an attribute of these elements etc.,
since a thing cannot act on itself. For fire, though possessing heat,
does not burn itself, nor does an actor (or acrobat), trained though he
be, ride on his own shoulder. And it cannot be that consciousness which
is an attribute of the elements and their derivatives, (and is hence
one with them), will perceive those elements etc. For neither one's own
form nor of anybody else is perceived by forms etc., whereas external
elements and their derivatives are perceived by consciousness. Hence
just as the existence of this perception of the elements and their
derivatives is admitted, so also must its separateness from them be
admitted. According to us, the Self is by nature the very essence of
perception itself, and hence the Self is dinstinct from the body. For,
although the Self comes to be associated with other states (i.e.
limiting adjuncts), still in such experiences as, "It is I that saw
this", its identity as the perceiver is recognized; and this identiry
has to be admitted so that memory etc. may be reasonably upheld. As for
the argument that since consciousness occurs within the body, it must
be an attribute of the body, that is refuted in the way we have already
shown. Moreover, though perception takes place when light and other
accessories are present but not when they are absent, it does not
follow from this that perception is an attribute of light etc. That
being the case, it does not follow that consciousness should be an
attribute of the body just because it occurs where the body is present
and does not occur where the body is absent; for the usefulness of the
body can be explained away as serving merely the purposes of an
auxillary like light etc. Furthermore, the body is not seen to be an
absolutely contributory factor in perception, since even when this body
lies inactive in dream, many kinds of perception are seen to take
place. Hence the existence of the Self distinct from the body is beyond



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