7. Attributive Consciousness | Śrī Vaishnavism

7. Attributive Consciousness
(Dharma-bhūta-jñāna)

Consecutively, (the topic of) Attributive Consciousness will now be expounded. The nature of it is described thus: -

1. While it is self-luminous, nan-sentient substance, it is “objectivated” (sa-viṣayatvam) (i.e., the some object always constituting its content);

2. While it is pervasive (Vibhu), it is of the nature of substance (Dravya), and attribute (Guṇa) like light;

3. It is that which illuminates objects;

4. It is Intellect or Intelligence (Buddhi) etc.

Attributive Consciousness is,

- to God and the Eternals (Nityās), ever eternal and pervasive (or diffusive);
- to the Bound (Baddha-souls) it is obstructed.
- to the Liberated (Mukta-souls), it was before obstructed but now risen.

But it may be asked how, if Consciousness is eternal, the parlance such as: “Consciousness is (now) born, Consciousness (now) lost” is to be accounted for?

The answer is that such is in vogue by reason of Consciousness being susceptible of contraction and expansion:

Like water issuing out of the hole of a leather-bag, Consciousness streams through the avenues of the senses, and contacts objects.

Contraction and Expansion are like the serpent and its coiling up.

All Consciousness is essentially self-evident (or self-authoritative), and is self- luminous.

The hypothetical Consciousness is the means (or instrument) at one’s disposal for all functions concerned with it, for such a function is made possible by it without seeking the aid of another thing sui generis, like object (Artha), sense (Indriya), Light (Dīpa), etc.

No sameness of genus can be instituted as between Sight and Light; for the differentiation between (them) accrues from the variations imbedded in the Ahaṁkāric Taijasa Principles.

By this (delineation given of Consciousness), the opinions, that

(1) Consciousness is instantaneous,
(2) it is endures for three (successive or continuous) instants,
(3) its illusory nature even in matters-of-fact (Vyavahārika) transactions, as it is in matters phantasmal (Prātibhāsika),
(4) its nature demonstrable by other proof (i.e., not self-evident),
(5) its being the Soul itself,

... etc., are discarded.

The Consciousness relating to (say): ‘Pillar’ (in the first instant) is the same one as that relating to ‘Pillar’ (in the succeeding instant), only it is continuous.

Granting that on the strength of Scriptures (Āgama), Consciousness is eternal, how are the conditions obtaining in the waking, sleeping etc., states (of Consciousness) to be explained?

The answer (to such a query) is:

The burning quality of fire placed near a thing to be burnt is neutralised by the presence of a gem, etc.; in like manner the presence of a certain hindering darkness produces sleep and other states.

Also it is like (the state of) youth etc., for, virility (the state of youth) is latent in (the age of) infancy, but becomes manifest in (the age of) youth.

Consciousness is of the character of attribute (Guṇa), by virtue of the definition that what is dependent (on another, in an indivisible manner) is its attribute (or quality), like the attributes (of substances).

Also by virtue of its (Consciousness’s) susceptibility to contraction and expansion, it partakes of the character of substance (Dravya.)

How Consciousness, the attribute of the Soul (Ātmā), can be of the nature of substance, need not provoke doubt, for like the light, the same one substance can possess both the characteristics (of attribute and substance). Hence there is no contradiction.

Substance (Dravya) is enunciable as that which is the abode (or seat) of states (Avasthā). Its radiation (or dispersion) outside its abode is possible like light (raying out from its centre).

A syllogism (may be constructed) thus: -

Attributive Consciousness is Substance,
For it possesses the character of diffusion etc.
Like light; or,
Consciousness is Substance.

For, apart from its connection (or source) unseen, it is cognisable,
Like Soul.

For Consciousness as stated, is conceivable as capable of simultaneously coming in contact with infinite space, like rays emerging from the eye, Sun etc.

The terms synonymous with Consciousness are Mati, Prajñā, Samvit, Dhiṣaṇā, Dhīh, Manīṣā, Śemuṣī, Medhā, Buddhi, etc.

It is Consciousness which, affected by environment, assumes the forms of joy, grief, desire, hate, and will; for there are no means (or proof), justifying the assumption of a generating Cause of joy etc., other than Consciousness.

Like “I remember” indicative of Consciousness, “I desire,” “I hate” (etc.), indicate but a state of Consciousness.

But how is the passage, which states: “Desire, will, doubt, zeal, indifference, courage, timidity, shame, sense (or reason) fear and all such, is Manas (mind),” to be construed as signifying forms (or states) of consciousness?

This query is met by the answer that inasmuch as the invariable law holds, associating Mind (Manas) as the instrument (or internal sense) of Consciousness, the use of the term Mind to signify Consciousness (as in the above passage) is figurative (-ly justified).

Likewise the qualities of the soul, which are numerous, are but the states of the attributive Consciousness, such (for example) as: -

Perception, Inference, Word, Memory, Doubt, Conclusion, Difference, Fancy, Discernment, Endeavour, Temptation, Attachment, Hostility, Pride, Envy, Craving, Ostentation, Cupidity, Anger, Dignity, Stupor, Deceit, Partiality, Sorrow etc.;

and Wisdom, Folly, Love, Contentment, Discontent, Greatness, Fatigue, Fame, Renunciation, Enjoyment, Friendship, Compassion, Aspiration of Release (mumukṣu), Bashfulness, Patience, Discrimination, Wish to Conquer, Softness, Forgiveness, Wish to do. Disgust, Imagination, Hypocrisy, Jealousy, Wish to kill, Cupidity, Vanity, Predilection, Prejudice, Dispute, (God-) Love (bhakti), Surrender (to Gad - prapatti), Lordship (or Power = Bhūti) etc.

Similarly the innumerable Blessed Attributes of God (Bhagavān) are the amplifications of His Consciousness and Power, such as: -

Knowledge, Power, Strength, Glory, Might and Light, Freedom, Love, Gentleness, Rectitude, Friendliness, Impartiality, Compassion, Sweetness, Dignity, Magnanimity, Tactfulness, Patience, Courage, Valour, Bravery etc.

(1) Knowledge (jñāna) is that (quality) which is of the nature of universal understanding.
(2) Power (Śaktī) is the capability of causing existence from non-existence.
(3) Strength (Bala) is the capacity to endure.
(4) Glory (Aiśvarya) is the capacity to rule.
(5) Might (Vīrya) is imperturbation.
(6) Light (Tejas) is the power to resist.

(7) Freedom (Sauśīlya) is the capacity to mix freely with high and low.
(8) Love (Vātsalya) is the quality of finding good m evil, or the overlooking of fault.
(9) Gentleness (Mārdava) is the not bearing to be separated from one's dears.
(10) Rectitude (Ārjava) is to be straight in thought, word and deed.
(11) Friendliness (Sauhārda) is readiness to help others to the neglect of one’s self.
(12) Impartiality (Sāmya) is to be equally accessible to all irrespective of their race, character or conduct.
(13) Compassion (Kāruṇya) is the wish to repair others’ ills to one’s own detriment, or the inability to see others’ sufferings.
(14) Sweetness (Mādhurya) is to be sweet while nourishing, like milk.
(15) Dignity (Gāmbhīrya) is the power which forbids the inquiry for deep motives underlying such acts as conferring abundance etc., on the devotees.
(16) Magnanimity (Audārya) is the feeling of dissatisfaction even after bestowing plenty.
(17) Tactfulness (Cāturya) is the power to hide another’s faults.
(18) Patience (Sthairya) is to be unruffled.
(19) Courage (Dhairya) is the power of permitting no waver, after decision.
(20) Valour (Śaurya) is the power to rush into the midst of the enemy;
(21) Bravery (Parākrama) is gaining victory over him.

The others (attributes) may be similarly understood.

The nature of God-love (bhakti) and God- surrender (Prapatti) - states of Consciousness - will briefly be discussed (now).

It is God alone who confers Moksha (Final Release from material existence), on the (bare) plea (furnished by souls) of Love and Surrender. Hence these (latter) are considered as the Means to Release.

The character of Means, assigned also to Karma yoga and Jñāna-yoga, which in fact are inseparable from Love, is by reason of (such) predominant characteristics persons may severally (happen to) possess.

What is Karma-Yoga or the Path of Works?

Through Holy Teaching (God), one acquires true knowledge regarding Soul and God; and, according to his best ability performs, without regard for fruit, diverse actions of virtue: -

(1) Kāmya or Optional,
(2) Nitya or Routine, and
(3) Naimittika or Casual.

The sum of acts so done is Karma- Yoga. It branches itself into God-worship, Austerities, Resort to Holy Places, Charity, Sacrifices etc.

Effecting the riddance of stains on the soul, it engenders Jñāna-Yoga or the Path of Knowledge, and through it or direct, engenders Bhakti-Yoga or the Path of Love.

What is āna-Yoga or the Path of Knowledge?

By means of Karma-Yoga, one’s heart (or mind, Antah-karaṇa) becomes purified, and he then contemplates on the Soul which is distinct from matter, and liege to God.

This (contemplation or Jñāna-Yoga) is useful to Love (Bhakti.) Whether these Ways (or Paths) are Independent Means (to Salvation), or ancillary to Love, depend upon the several authorities presenting such views.

What is Bhakti- Yoga, or the Path of Love?

It is an unbroken stream of thought (of God) like a stream of (poured) oil, preceded by the 8-fold auxiliaries:

(1) Yama (restraints),
(2) Niyama (observances),
(3) Āsana (postures),
(4) Prāṇāyāma (restraint of breath),
(5) Pratyāhāra (restraint of senses),
(6) Dhāraṇa (steadying concentration),
(7) Dhyāna (uninterrupted meditation),
(8) Samādhi (imperturbable fixture).

The 7-fold means known as:

(1) Viveka, (2) Vimoka, (3) Abhyāsa, (4) Kriyā, (5) Kalyāṇa, (6) Anavasāda and Anuddharṣa, give birth to it (Bhakti).

Of these:

(1) Viveka or Discrimination is said to be the purity of body effected by abstention from food, impure from any cause.
(2) Vimoka or Dispassion is freedom from desire.
(3) Abhyāsa or Practice is the repeated habit of clinging to the (mental) Subject (or Image) (of contemplation).
(4) Kriyā or Performance is the observance of the Fivefold Mahā-Yajñas or Great Sacrifices, according to one’s ability.
(5) Kalyāṇa or Virtues are Truth, Uprightness,, Clemency, Non-cruelty and Non-cupidity.
(6) Anavasāda or Painlessness is freedom from dejection (or despair).
(7) Anuddharṣa or Non-elation is freedom from paroxysmal joy; for such joy is also a hindrance.

Fostered thus by this seven-fold Means, Love (Bhakti) becomes as vivid as actual perception and (this) must last till the (final) dissolution of the body occurs. This final (God-) consciousness may break (on a person) at the end of this or some other body.

Love or Bhakti, variously called Vedana, Dhyāna and Upāsanā, has 3 successive stages,

(1) Para-bhakti or Seeing God;
(2) Para-jñāna or Uniting with God; and
(3) Parama-bhakti or Fear of separation from Him;

Love again is 2-fold;

(1) Sādhana-bhakti or Laboured Love, and
(2) Phala- bhakti or Ripened Love.

Laboured Love is what is evoked by (human) exertion.

Ripened Love is what is gifted by God’s grace, such that is found in Parāṅkuśa, Nātha, etc.

The employmeht of the term “love” for praise, prostration etc., alluded to in such verses as:

Love of My votaries,” etc., is figurative.

But a query may arise why, when the Vedāntas have prescribed Hearing (Śravaṇa) and Reflection (Manana) also, love (Bhakti or Nididhyāsana) alone is said to be enjoined.

It is met thus:

A person having learnt (the letter of) the Vedas with all its adjuncts, finds that the import of all this (learning) must have some definite motive;

he necessarily resorts to Hearing (i. e. exposition by a Teacher) in order to ascertain for himself what it (the end) may be.

Hence Hearing as a necessary step is premised.

Reflection then (on what was taught) is also premised inasmuch as it is a (mental) process intended to render steady what has been heard.

Hence there is no inconsistency when it is stated that the purpose (of the Vedas) is to prescribe Love (Bhakti).

Love which in other words is meditation (Dhyāna) becomes manifold by the diversity of its Methods (Vidyā).

These Methods (of Love or Meditation) are sub- sumable under 2 main heads: those that have for their fruit (aim) Material Goods, or Spiritual End (Mukti).

The Udgītha-Vidyā etc., belong to the Material Class.

Those that belong to the Spiritual Class or the Brahma- Vidyā, are such as

the Antar-akṣi-Vidyā, Antar-Āditya- Vidyā, Dahara-Vidyā, Bhūmā-Vidyā, Sad-Vidyā, Madhu-Vidyā, Upakosala-Vidyā, Śāṇḍilya- Vidyā, Purusha-Vidyā, Pratardana-Vidyā, Vaiśvānara-Vidyā, Pañca-Agni-Vidyā etc.

Nyāsa-Vidyā is Prapatti or Surrender (to God). It is the same as Śaraṇāgati or Capitulation (to God) as the Refuge (or harbour), as defined in the Verse: -

Prapatti or Śaraṇāgati is imploring, with abounding love, God alone as the Way for consummation of aspirations otherwise unattainable”. (from Pañcarātra)

This (Way,) which guarantees the Spiritual End (Moksha) at the end of the present body, precludes the necessity of the state of being (vividly) conscious of God at the time of death, requires but once to be done, is designated Nyāsa (lying or leaning on God), Śaraṇāgati (He the only Refuge).

It is thus a unique state of consciousness.

Further descant on this topic is debarred by reason of this work having been designed for the enlightenment of the young; it has to be learnt from the properly constituted apostolic authorities, out of esoteric treatises (Rāhasyas) etc.

As only Love (bhakti) and Surrender (prapatti) are admittted as the Means by which to secure the Spiritual Consummation (Moksha), Means that others promulgate are discarded.

Amongst those (religionists) who stand outside the pale of the Vedas, some do not admit the entity Soul at all, as apart from the body; to them the very subject of Deliverance (Moksha) is futile.

Nor is it less abortive to those others who believe consciousness to be momentary, which to them is itself the Soul (Buddhists).

But they may contend that it (Deliverance) may be predicated for the next begotten consciousness:

But it cannot be that one (lapsed thing) can exert for another (for Moksha).

Nor for those can the question (of Deliverance) arise, who are addicted to the many-faced Sapta bhaṅgi profession. (Jains)

Nor can there be partisans for the school of the Vaiśeṣikas who assert the Spiritual End (or Deliverance) to be petrifaction (Pāṣāṇa-Kalpa).

Nor is the subject (Deliverance) of any value to the Sānkhyas, who do not admit God (Īśvara), and there arises a doubt as to whom is Deliverance, Soul (Purusha) or to Matter (Prakṛti)?

Nor is that question invested with interest for those schoolmen, the illusionists (Māyā-vādins), to whom the true monist knowledge cannot spring from the avowed illusory nature of the (Vedic) texts.

The contention of (the Schools of) Bhāskara and Yādava for a combined Way of Works and Knowledge, is likewise inadmissible.

The Śaiva system is discarded by reason of its stating Paśupati as the Goal, and the smearing of ashes etc., - contrary to the spirit of the Vedas, - as the Means.

Thus consciousness has been expounded.

Thus ends Chapter 7,
The Treatment of Attributive Consciousness (Dharma-bhūta-jñāna) in the
“Light of the School of Rāmānuja.”