I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 2

Plurality is not unreal.

Next as to the assertion that all difference presented in our cognition-as of jars, pieces of cloth and the like--is unreal because such difference does not persist. This view, we maintain, is altogether erroneous, springs in fact from the neglect of distinguishing between persistence and non-persistence on the one hand, and the relation between what assimilates and what is assimilated on the other hand. Where two cognitions are mutually contradictory, there the latter relation holds good, and there is non- persistence of what is assimilated. But jars, pieces of cloth and the like, do not contradict one another, since they are separate in place and time. If on the other hand the non-existence of a thing is cognised at the same time and the same place where and when its existence is cognised, we have a mutual contradiction of two cognitions, and then the stronger one assimilates the other cognition which thus comes to an end. But when of a thing that is perceived in connexion with some place and time, the non-existence is perceived in connexion with some other place and time, there arises no contradiction; how then should the one cognition assimilate the other? or how can it be said that of a thing absent at one time and place there is absence at other times and places also? In the case of the snake-rope, there arises a cognition of non-existence in connexion with the given place and time; hence there is contradiction, one judgment assimilates the other and the assimilated cognition comes to an end. But the circumstance of something which is seen at one time and in one place not persisting at another time and in another place is not observed to be invariably accompanied by falsehood, and hence mere non-persistence of this kind does not constitute a reason for unreality. To say, on the other hand, that what is real because it persists, is to prove what is proved already, and requires no further proof.

Being and consciousness are not one.

Hence mere Being does not alone constitute reality. And as the distinction between consciousness and its objects--which rests just on this relation of object and that for which the object is proved by perception, the assertion that only consciousness has real existence is also disposed of.

The true meaning of Svayam-prakāśa-tva.

We next take up the point as to the self-luminousness of consciousness. The contention that consciousness is not an object holds good for the knowing Self at the time when it illumines (i.e. constitutes as its objects) other things; but there is no absolute rule as to all consciousness never being anything but self-luminous. For common observation shows that the consciousness of one person may become the object of the cognition of another, viz. of an inference founded on the person's friendly or unfriendly appearance and the like, and again that a person's own past states of consciousness become the object of his own cognition--as appears from judgments such as 'At one time I knew.' It cannot therefore be said 'If it is consciousness it is self-proved', nor that consciousness if becoming an object of consciousness would no longer be consciousness; for from this it would follow that one's own past states, and the conscious states of others--because being objects of consciousness--are not themselves consciousness. Moreover, unless it were admitted that there is inferential knowledge of the thoughts of others, there would be no apprehension of the connexion of words and meaning, and this would imply the absolute termination of all human intercourse depending on speech. Nor also would it be possible for pupils to attach themselves to a teacher of sacred lore, for the reason that they had become aware of his wisdom and learning. The general proposition that consciousness does not admit of being an object is in fact quite untenable. The essential 'nature of consciousness or knowledge--consists therein that it shines forth, or manifests itself, through its own being to its own substrate at the present moment; or (to give another definition) that it is instrumental in proving its own object by its own being.

Now these two characteristics are established by a person's own state of consciousness and do not vanish when that consciousness becomes the object of another state of consciousness; consciousness remains also in the latter case what it is. Jars and similar things, on the other hand, do not possess consciousness, not because they are objects of consciousness but because they lack the two characteristics stated above. If we made the presence of consciousness dependent on the absence of its being an object of consciousness, we should arrive at the conclusion that consciousness is not consciousness; for there are things--e.g. sky-flowers--which are not objects of consciousness and at the same time are not consciousness. You will perhaps reply to this that a sky- flower's not being consciousness is due not to its not being an object of consciousness, but to its non- existence!--Well then, we reply, let us say analogously that the reason of jars and the like not being contradictory to Nescience (i.e. of their being gada), is their not being of the nature of consciousness, and let us not have recourse to their being objects of consciousness!--But if consciousness is an object of consciousness, we conclude that it also is non-contradictory of Nescience, like a jar!--At this conclusion, we reply, you may arrive even on the opposite assumption, reasoning as follows: 'Consciousness is non- contradictory of Nescience, because it is not an object of consciousness, like a sky-flower! All which shows that to maintain as a general principle that something which is an object of consciousness cannot itself be consciousness is simply ridiculous.'