I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 3

Consciousness is not eternal.

It was further maintained by the Pūrvapakshin that as consciousness is self-established it has no antecedent non-existence and so on, and that this disproves its having an origin. But this is an attempt to prove something not proved by something else that is equally unproved; comparable to a man blind from birth undertaking to guide another blind man! You have no right to maintain the non-existence of the antecedent non-existence of consciousness on the ground that there is nothing to make us apprehend that non-existence; for there is something to make us apprehend it, viz. consciousness itself!--But how can consciousness at the time when it is, make us apprehend its own previous non-existence which is contradictorily opposed to it?--Consciousness, we reply, does not necessarily constitute as its objects only what occupies the same time with itself; were it so it would follow that neither the past nor the future can be the object of consciousness. Or do you mean that there is an absolute rule that the Antecedent non-existence of consciousness, if proved, must be contemporaneous with consciousness? Have you then, we ask, ever observed this so as to be able to assert an absolute rule? And if it were observed, that would prove the existence of previous non-existence, not its negation!--The fact, however, is that no person in his senses will maintain the contemporaneous existence of consciousness and its own antecedent non-existence. In the case of perceptive knowledge originating from sensation, there is indeed this limitation, that it causes the apprehension of such things only as are actually present at the same time. But this limitation does not extend to cognitions of all kinds, nor to all instruments of knowledge; for we observe that remembrance, inference, and the magical perception of Yogis apprehend such things also as are not present at the time of apprehension. On this very point there rests the relation connecting the means of knowledge with their objects, viz. that the former are not without the latter. This does not mean that the instrument of knowledge is connected with its object in that way that it is not without something that is present at the time of cognition; but rather that the instrument of knowledge is opposed to the falsehood of that special form in which the object presents itself as connected with some place and time.--This disposes also of the contention that remembrance has no external object; for it is observed that remembrance is related to such things also as have perished.-- Possibly you will now argue as follows. The antecedent non-existence of consciousness cannot be ascertained by perception, for it is not something present at the time of perception. It further cannot be ascertained by the other means of knowledge, since there is no characteristic mark (linga) on which an inference could be based: for we do not observe any characteristic mark invariably accompanied by the antecedent non-existence of consciousness. Nor do we meet with any scriptural text referring to this antecedent non-existence. Hence, in the absence of any valid instrument of knowledge, the antecedent non-existence of consciousness cannot be established at all.--If, we reply, you thus, altogether setting aside the force of self-provedness (on which you had relied hitherto), take your stand on the absence of valid means of knowledge, we again must request you to give in; for there is a valid means of knowledge whereby to prove the antecedent non-existence of consciousness, viz. valid non- perception (anupalabdhi).

Moreover, we observe that perceptional knowledge proves its object, be it a jar or something else, to exist only as long as it exists itself, not at all times; we do not, through it, apprehend the antecedent or subsequent existence of the jar. Now this absence of apprehension is due to the fact that consciousness itself is limited in time. If that consciousness which has a jar for its object were itself apprehended as non-limited in time, the object also--the jar--would be apprehended under the same form, i.e. it would be eternal. And if self-established consciousness were eternal, it would be immediately cognised as eternal; but this is not the case. Analogously, if inferential consciousness and other forms of consciousness were apprehended as non-limited in time, they would all of them reveal their objects also as non-limited, and these objects would thus be eternal; for the objects are conform in nature to their respective forms of consciousness.

There is no consciousness without object.

Nor is there any consciousness devoid of objects; for nothing of this kind is ever known. Moreover, the self-luminousness of consciousness has, by our opponent himself, been proved on the ground that its essential nature consists in illumining (revealing) objects; the self-luminousness of consciousness not admitting of proof apart from its essential nature which consists in the lighting up of objects. And as moreover, according to our opponent, consciousness cannot be the object of another consciousness, it would follow that (having neither an object nor itself being an object) it is something altogether unreal, imaginary.

Nor are you justified in maintaining that in deep sleep, swoon, senselessness and similar states, pure consciousness, devoid of any object, manifests itself. This view is negated by 'valid non-perception'. If consciousness were present in those states also, there would be remembrance of it at the time of waking from sleep or recovery from swoon; but as a matter of fact there is no such remembrance.--But it is not an absolute rule that something of which we were conscious must be remembered; how then can the absence of remembrance prove the absence of previous consciousness?--Unless, we reply, there be some cause of overpowering strength which quite obliterates all impressions--as e.g. the dissolution of the body--the absence of remembrance does necessarily prove the absence of previous consciousness. And, moreover, in the present case the absence of consciousness does not only follow from absence of remembrance; it is also proved by the thought presenting itself to the person risen from sleep, 'For so long a time I was not conscious of anything.'-- Nor may it be said that even if there was consciousness, absence of remembrance would necessarily follow from the absence (during deep sleep) of the distinction of objects, and from the extinction of the consciousness of the 'I'; for the non-consciousness of some one thing, and the absence of some one thing cannot be the cause of the non-remembrance of some other thing, of which there had been consciousness. And that in the states in question the consciousness of the 'I' does persist, will moreover be shown further on.

But, our opponent urges, have you not said yourself that even in deep sleep and similar states there is consciousness marked by difference?--True, we have said so. But that consciousness is consciousness of the Self, and that this is affected by difference will be proved further on. At present we are only interested in denying the existence of your pure consciousness, devoid of all objects and without a substrate. Nor can we admit that your pure consciousness could constitute what we call the consciousness of the Self; for we shall prove that the latter has a substrate.

It thus cannot be maintained that the antecedent non-existence of consciousness does not admit of being proved, because consciousness itself does not prove it. And as we have shown that consciousness itself may be an object of consciousness, we have thereby disproved the alleged impossibility of antecedent non-existence being proved by other means. Herewith falls the assertion that the non-origination of consciousness can be proved.

Consciousness is capable of change.

Against the assertion that the alleged non-origination of consciousness at the same time proves that consciousness is not capable of any other changes (p. 36), we remark that the general proposition on which this conclusion rests is too wide: it would extend to antecedent non-existence itself, of which it is evident that it comes to an end, although it does not originate. In qualifying the changes as changes of 'Being,' you manifest great logical acumen indeed! For according to your own view Nescience also (which is not 'Being') does not originate, is the substrate of manifold changes, and comes to an end through the rise of knowledge! Perhaps you will say that the changes of Nescience are all unreal. But, do you then, we ask in reply, admit that any change is real? You do not; and yet it is only this admission which would give a sense to the distinction expressed by the word 'Being' 1.

Nor is it true that consciousness does not admit of any division within itself, because it has no beginning. For the non-originated Self is divided from the body, the senses, etc., and Nescience also, which is avowedly without a beginning, must needs be admitted to be divided from the Self. And if you say that the latter division is unreal, we ask whether you have ever observed a real division invariably connected with origination! Moreover, if the distinction of Nescience from the Self is not real, it follows that Nescience and the Self are essentially one. You further have yourself proved the difference of views by means of the difference of the objects of knowledge as established by non-refuted knowledge; an analogous case being furnished by the difference of acts of cleaving, which results from the difference of objects to be cleft. And if you assert that of this knowing--which is essentially knowing only--nothing that is an object of knowledge can be an attribute, and that these objects--just because they are objects of knowledge-- cannot be attributes of knowing; we point out that both these remarks would apply also to eternity, self- luminousness, and the other attributes of 'knowing', which are acknowledged by yourself, and established by valid means of proof. Nor may you urge against this that all these alleged attributes are in reality mere 'consciousness' or 'knowing'; for they are essentially distinct. By 'being conscious' or 'knowing', we understand the illumining or manifesting of some object to its own substrate (i.e. the substrate of knowledge), by its own existence (i.e. the existence of knowledge) merely; by self- luminousness (or 'self-illumination') we understand the shining forth or being manifest by its own existence merely to its own substrate; the terms 'shining forth', 'illumining', 'being manifest' in both these definitions meaning the capability of becoming an object of thought and speech which is common to all things, whether intelligent or non-intelligent. Eternity again means 'being present in all time'; oneness means 'being defined by the number one'. Even if you say that these attributes are only negative ones, i. e. equal to the absence of non-intelligence and so on, you still cannot avoid the admission that they are attributes of consciousness. If, on the other hand, being of a nature opposite to non-intelligence and so on, be not admitted as attributes of consciousness--whether of a positive or a negative kind--in addition to its essential nature; it is an altogether unmeaning proceeding to deny to it such qualities, as non- intelligence and the like.

We moreover must admit the following alternative: consciousness is either proved (established) or not. If it is proved it follows that it possesses attributes; if it is not, it is something absolutely nugatory, like a sky-flower, and similar purely imaginary things.