[Advaita-l] Cotard Syndrome and Brahman Realisation

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jun 12 02:20:39 CDT 2012

On Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM, Rajaram Venkataramani <
rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> >
> RV: Sri Sudhakar also said that sakshi is the seer.  The sakshi always
> witnesses. So, why is the jnani sometimes aware of his mind
> (mal)functioning and not always? You have also added a small complication
> to that position that the anandamaya aspect of the mind is awake even in
> deep sleep etc. So, is it the sakshi that sees or an aspect of the mind?

Pl. bear with me as I am entering into a fairly long explanation in the
form of a reply.  I found it inevitable as a one-line answer will not be
satisfying anyone.  Nor am I overly confident that the following is going
to satisfy someone either.  But I am only presenting the vastu sthithi from
the shAstra angle:

In Vedanta the concept of 'sAkShI' is a temporary one which is admitted to
aid one's ultimate understanding of the Pure Self, Atman.  The following
verse of the Advaita  Makaranda makes this clear:


चेत्योपरागरूपा मे साक्षिताऽपि न तात्त्विकी ।

उपलक्षणमेवेयं निस्तरङ्गचिदम्बुधेः ॥

The concept of sAkShI, which is of the form of a connection between the
anAtmA, the seen, and the Me, the Pure Consciousness (PC), too, is not
ultimately real.  It is only an indicator, upalakShaNa, for the waveless
ocean that is the Pure Consciousness.

Since the PC, being devoid of all attributes, is extremely difficult to
realize, the shastram conceives of a sort of via media between the anAtmA
and the PC.  By showing that the entire anAtmA is apprehended by the
sAkShI, the shAstram wants us to turn our attention away from the anAtma
and focus on the sAkShI, the seer.  For the time being the sAkshI is even
taught as the 'I'.  But once the aspirant has started appreciating the
sAkShI concept, he is taken forward, higher, to the PC by even discarding
sAkShI, for it is only relative to sAkShya.  In the ultimate advaitic
perspective no sAkShya is there, there is no longer any need to talk about
the sAkShI.

With this background it would be easier to appreciate that any kind of
knowledge, knowing, requires two essential elements: 1. the light of the
Atman and 2. an instrument that helps knowing.  Since the mind, the sattva
guNa samaShThi of pancha bhutas, is inert, it is said that it acquires the
capacity to reveal things ONLY through the light of the Atman that reflects
in it (the mind).  So the mind, receiving the ever unconditional light of
the Self, Atman, reveals the seen or objective side.  Thus when we say the
sAkShI knows, it is not without the instrumentality of the mind too.  For,
as I said earlier, the Atman is never a knower and can never possess any
knowledge of the world.  When we are asked to take a sAkshi bhAva we step
back from the anAtmA, even the mind, and say  'I am witness to the thoughts
of the mind even'.  Here the logic, tarka, plays heavily: the witnessed can
not be its own witness.  So, we require a something that witnesses even the
mind, its thoughts.  This is postulated as  the saakshi.  Since all sadhana
is taking place only at the mind, anAtmA, level, the sAkShi, too really
pertains to the anAtmA alone, for, as taught in the verse quoted above, it
is also discarded finally. Thus, the sadhana takes place in the mind alone
by accepting the sAkshi as something different from the mind.  But as I
said one cannot say the Atman knows, that is, possesses the knowledge of,
the mind (thoughts).  The mind also cannot know itself.  But since we have
an undeniable capacity to be aware of sukha/duhkha/vRttis generated in the
mind, the shastra cashes in on this and says: this 'awarer' of the
mind/thoughts is the sAkshi.  With this anchor we practice and finally come
to the stage of even discarding the sAkshi, along with the entire seen,
objective world, gross and subtle.  Atman, however, can never be discarded
for one cannot discard/negate  oneself who/which negates/discards
everything else.  This unnegatable one is taught as the Atman, which can
never be an object and not even a  subject, for again a subject will
require an object.  Atman, PC, is this not-sAkShi, objectless, unnegatable

Just as the mind alone divides itself into the seer/knower/pramAta, the
seeing instruments and the seen objects in a dream due to the operation of
the nidrAshakti, the Self alone, the One PC alone, by the operation of the
maya shakti, divides itself, as though, into the sAkshi and the mind and
the objects outside.  Just like the triad finally resolves into the
sleeping person, upon waking, the sAkshi-sAkshya (mind) resolves into the
PC upon realization of the Self.  Thus the resolvable duality has to have a
mAyA element in it.  Whether we say the one aspect of the mind alone
witnesses the other aspect or the sAkshi witnesses the mind, it is a matter
of prakriyA alone.  What is invariable is that the illumination is required
from the PC in any kind of knowledge activity.

In the context of the original topic being discusses it is best to keep
this also in mind:

निरूपयितुमारब्धे निखिलैरपि पण्डितै: ।

अज्ञानं पुरतस्तेषां भाति कक्ष्यासु कासुचित् ॥ [6.143]

143. *Even if all the learned people of the world try to determine the
nature of this world, they will find themselves confronted at some stage or
other by ignorance.*

All discussions on topics involving the world, in any aspect whether it is
neurology or cosmology, evolution, etc. are subject to the above
declaration of Swami Vidyaranya. This rule does not spare Vedantins too.
For when even they attempt to describe/explain the world/human body, life,
behaviour, etc. even they are confronted by the above mentioned ignorance
at some or the other stage.  The only 'thing' that one can finally be
certain about is the Self, oneself.


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