I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 4

Consciousness is the attribute of a permanent Conscious self.

Let it then be said that consciousness is proof (siddhiḥ) itself. Proof of what, we ask in reply, and to whom? If no definite answer can be given to these two questions, consciousness cannot be defined as 'proof'; for 'proof' is a relative notion, like 'son.' You will perhaps reply 'Proof to the Self'; and if we go on asking 'But what is that Self'? you will say, 'Just consciousness as already said by us before.' True, we reply, you said so; but it certainly was not well said. For if it is the nature of consciousness to be 'proof' ('light,' 'enlightenment') on the part of a person with regard to something, how can this consciousness which is thus connected with the person and the thing be itself conscious of itself? To explain: the essential character of consciousness or knowledge is that by its very existence it renders things capable of becoming objects, to its own substrate, of thought and speech. This consciousness (anubhūti), which is also termed jñāna, avagati, saṁvit, is a particular attribute belonging to a conscious Self and related to an object: as such it is known to everyone on the testimony of his own Self--as appears from ordinary judgments such as 'I know the jar,' 'I understand this matter,' 'I am conscious of (the presence of) this piece of cloth.' That such is the essential nature of consciousness you yourself admit; for you have proved thereby its self-luminousness. Of this consciousness which thus clearly presents itself as the attribute of an agent and as related to an object, it would be difficult indeed to prove that at the same time it is itself the agent; as difficult as it would be to prove that the object of action is the agent.

For we clearly see that this agent (the subject of consciousness) is permanent (constant), while its attribute, i. e. consciousness, not differing herein from joy, grief, and the like, rises, persists for some time, and then comes to an end. The permanency of the conscious subject is proved by the fact of recognition, 'This very same thing was formerly apprehended by me.' The non-permanency of consciousness, on the other hand, is proved by thought expressing itself in the following forms, 'I know at present,' 'I knew at a time,' 'I, the knowing subject, no longer have knowledge of this thing.' How then should consciousness and (the conscious subject be one? If consciousness which changes every moment were admitted to constitute the conscious subject, it would be impossible for us to recognise the thing seen to- day as the one we saw yesterday; for what has been perceived by one cannot be recognised by another. And even if consciousness were identified with the conscious subject and acknowledged as permanent, this would no better account for the fact of recognition. For recognition implies a conscious subject persisting from the earlier to the later moment, and not merely consciousness. Its expression is 'I myself perceived this thing on a former occasion.' According to your view the quality of being a conscious agent cannot at all belong to consciousness; for consciousness, you say, is just consciousness and nothing more. And that there exists a pure consciousness devoid of substrate and objects alike, we have already refuted on the ground that of a thing of this kind we have absolutely no knowledge. And that the consciousness admitted by both of us should be the Self is refuted by immediate consciousness itself. And we have also refuted the fallacious arguments brought forward to prove that mere consciousness is the only reality.--But, another objection is raised, should the relation of the Self and the 'I' not rather be conceived as follows:--In self-consciousness which expresses itself in the judgment 'I know,' that intelligent something which constitutes the absolutely non-objective element, and is pure homogeneous light, is the Self; the objective element (yushmad-artha) on the other hand, which is established through its being illumined (revealed) by the Self is the I--in 'I know'--and this is something different from pure intelligence, something objective or external?

By no means, we reply; for this view contradicts the relation of attribute and substrate of attribute of which we are directly conscious, as implied in the thought 'I know.'

Consider also what follows.--'If the I were not the Self, the inwardness of the Self would not exist; for it is just the consciousness of the I which separates the inward from the outward.

'"May I, freeing myself from all pain, enter on free possession of endless delight?" This is the thought which prompts the man desirous of release to apply himself to the study of the sacred texts. Were it a settled matter that release consists in the annihilation of the I, the same man would move away as soon as release were only hinted at. "When I myself have perished, there still persists some consciousness different from me;" to bring this about nobody truly will exert himself.

'Moreover the very existence of consciousness, its being a consciousness at all, and its being self- luminous, depend on its connexion with a Self; when that connexion is dissolved, consciousness itself cannot be established, not any more than the act of cutting can take place when there is no person to cut and nothing to be cut. Hence it is certain that the I, i.e. the knowing subject, is the inward Self.'

This scripture confirms when saying 'By what should he know the knower?' (Bri. Up. II, 4, 15); and Smriti also, 'Him who knows this they call the knower of the body' (Bha. Gī. XIII, 1). And the Sūtrakāra also, in the section beginning with 'Not the Self on account of scriptural statement' (II, 3, 17), will say 'For this very reason (it is) a knower' (II, 3, 18); and from this it follows that the Self is not mere consciousness.

What is established by consciousness of the 'I' is the I itself, while the not-I is given in the consciousness of the not-I; hence to say that the knowing subject, which is established by the state of consciousness, 'I know,' is the not-I, is no better than to maintain that one's own mother is a barren woman. Nor can it be said that this 'I,' the knowing subject, is dependent on its light for something else. It rather is self- luminous; for to be self-luminous means to have consciousness for one's essential nature. And that which has light for its essential nature does not depend for its light on something else. The case is analogous to that of the flame of a lamp or candle. From the circumstance that the lamp illumines with its light other things, it does not follow either that it is not luminous, or that its luminousness depends on something else; the fact rather is that the lamp being of luminous nature shines itself and illumines with its light other things also. To explain.--The one substance tejas, i.e. fire or heat, subsists in a double form, viz. as light (prabha), and as luminous matter. Although light is a quality of luminous substantial things, it is in itself nothing but the substance tejas, not a mere quality like e.g. whiteness; for it exists also apart from its substrates, and possesses colour (which is a quality). Having thus attributes different from those of qualities such as whiteness and so on, and possessing illumining power, it is the substance tejas, not anything else (e.g. a quality). Illumining power belongs to it, because it lights up itself and other things. At the same time it is practically treated as a quality because it always has the substance tejas for its substrate, and depends on it. This must not be objected to on the ground that what is called light is really nothing but dissolving particles of matter which proceed from the substance tejas; for if this were so, shining gems and the sun would in the end consume themselves completely. Moreover, if the flame of a lamp consisted of dissolving particles of matter, it would never be apprehended as a whole; for no reason can be stated why those particles should regularly rise in an agglomerated form to the height of four fingers breadth, and after that simultaneously disperse themselves uniformly in all directions--upwards, sideways, and downwards. The fact is that the flame of the lamp together with its light is produced anew every moment and again vanishes every moment; as we may infer from the successive combination of sufficient causes (viz. particles of oil and wick) and from its coming to an end when those causes are completely consumed.

Analogously to the lamp, the Self is essentially intelligent (kid-rūpa), and has intelligence (caitanya) for its quality. And to be essentially intelligent means to be self-luminous. There are many scriptural texts declaring this, compare e.g. 'As a mass of salt has neither inside nor outside but is altogether a mass of taste, thus indeed that Self has neither inside nor outside but is altogether a mass of knowledge' (Bri. Up. IV, 5, 13); 'There that person becomes self-luminous, there is no destruction of the knowing of the knower' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 14; 30); 'He who knows, let me smell this, he is the Self (Kh. Up. VIII, 12, 4); 'Who is that Self? That one who is made of knowledge, among the prāṇas, within the heart, the light, the person' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 7); 'For it is he who sees, hears, smells, tastes, thinks, considers, acts, the person whose Self is knowledge' (Pr. Up. IV, 9); 'Whereby should one know the knower' (Bri. Up. IV, 5, 15). 'This person knows,' 'The seer does not see death nor illness nor pain' (Kh. Up. VII, 26, 2); 'That highest person not remembering this body into which he was born' (Kh. Up. VIII, 12, 3); 'Thus these sixteen parts of the spectator that go towards the person; when they have readied the person, sink into him' (Pr. Up. VI, 5); 'From this consisting of mind, there is different an interior Self consisting of knowledge' (Taitt. Up. II, 4). And the Sūtrakāra also will refer to the Self as a 'knower' in II, 3, 18. All which shows that the self-luminous Self is a knower, i.e. a knowing subject, and not pure light (non-personal intelligence). In general we may say that where there is light it must belong to something, as shown by the light of a lamp. The Self thus cannot be mere consciousness. The grammarians moreover tell us that words such as 'consciousness,' 'knowledge,' etc., are relative; neither ordinary nor Vedic language uses expressions such as 'he knows' without reference to an object known and an agent who knows.

With reference to the assertion that consciousness constitutes the Self, because it (consciousness) is not non-intelligent (gada), we ask what you understand by this absence of non-intelligence.' If you reply 'luminousness due to the being of the thing itself (i.e. of the thing which is agada)'; we point out that this definition would wrongly include lamps also, and similar things; and it would moreover give rise to a contradiction, since you do not admit light as an attribute, different from consciousness itself. Nor can we allow you to define agadatva as 'being of that nature that light is always present, without any exception,' for this definition would extend also to pleasure, pain, and similar states. Should you maintain that pleasure and so on, although being throughout of the nature of light, are non- intelligent for the reason that, like jars, etc., they shine forth (appear) to something else and hence belong to the sphere of the not-Self; we ask in reply: Do you mean then to say that knowledge appears to itself? Knowledge no less than pleasure appears to someone else, viz. the 'I': there is, in that respect, no difference between the judgment 'I know,' and the judgment 'I am pleased.' Non-intelligence in the sense of appearingness-to-itself is thus not proved for consciousness; and hence it follows that what constitutes the Self is the non-gada 'I' which is proved to itself by its very Being. That knowledge is of the nature of light depends altogether on its connection with the knowing 'I': it is due to the latter, that knowledge, like pleasure, manifests itself to that conscious person who is its substrate, and not to anybody else. The Self is thus not mere knowledge, but is the knowing 'I.'

The view that the conscious subject is something unreal, due to the Ahaṁkāra, cannot be maintained.

We turn to a further point. You maintain that consciousness which is in reality devoid alike of objects and substrate presents itself, owing to error, in the form of a knowing subject, just as mother o' pearl appears as silver; (consciousness itself being viewed as a real substrate of an erroneous imputation), because an erroneous imputation cannot take place apart from a substrate. But this theory is indefensible. If things were as you describe them, the conscious 'I' would be cognised as co-ordinate with the state of consciousness 'I am consciousness,' just as the shining thing presenting itself to our eyes is judged to be silver. But the fact is that the state of consciousness presents itself as something apart, constituting a distinguishing attribute of the I, just as the stick is an attribute of Devadatta who carries it. The judgment 'I am conscious' reveals an 'I' distinguished by consciousness; and to declare that it refers only to a state of consciousness--which is a mere attribute--is no better than to say that the judgment 'Devadatta carries a stick' is about the stick only. Nor are you right in saying that the idea of the Self being a knowing agent, presents itself to the mind of him only who erroneously identifies the Self and the body, an error expressing itself in judgments such as 'I am stout,' and is on that account false; for from this it would follow that the consciousness which is erroneously imagined as a Self is also false; for it presents itself to the mind of the same person. You will perhaps reply that consciousness is not false because it (alone) is not assimilated by that cognition which assimilates everything else. Well, we reply, then the knowership of the Self also is not false; for that also is not assimilated. You further maintain that the character of being a knower, i.e. the agent in the action of knowing, does not become the non-changing Self; that being a knower is something implying change, of a non-intelligent kind (gada), and residing in the ahaṁkāra which is the abode of change and a mere effect of the Unevolved (the Prakriti); that being an agent and so on is like colour and other qualities, an attribute of what is objective; and that if we admit the Self to be an agent and the object of the notion of the 'I,' it also follows that the Self is, like the body, not a real Self but something external and non-intelligent. But all this is unfounded, since the internal organ is, like the body, non-intelligent, an effect of Prakriti, an object of knowledge, something outward and for the sake of others merely; while being a knowing subject constitutes the special essential nature of intelligent beings. To explain. Just as the body, through its objectiveness, outwardness, and similar causes, is distinguished from what possesses the opposite attributes of subjectiveness, inwardness, and so on; for the same reason the Ahaṁkāra also--which is of the same substantial nature as the body--is similarly distinguished. Hence the Ahaṁkāra is no more a knower than it is something subjective; otherwise there would be an evident contradiction. As knowing cannot be attributed to the Ahaṁkāra, which is an object of knowledge, so knowership also cannot be ascribed to it; for of that also it is the object. Nor can it be maintained that to be a knower is something essentially changing. For to be a knower is to be the substrate of the quality of knowledge, and as the knowing Self is eternal, knowledge which is an essential quality of the Self is also eternal. That the Self is eternal will be declared in the Sūtra, II, 3, 17; and in II, 3, 18 the term 'jña' (knower) will show that it is an essential quality of the Self to be the abode of knowledge. That a Self whose essential nature is knowledge should be the substrate of the (quality of) knowledge--just as gems and the like are the substrate of light--gives rise to no contradiction whatever.

Knowledge (the quality) which is in itself unlimited, is capable of contraction and expansion, as we shall show later on. In the so-called Kṣetrajña--condition of the Self, knowledge is, owing to the influence of work (karman), of a contracted nature, as it more or less adapts itself to work of different kinds, and is variously determined by the different senses. With reference to this various flow of knowledge as due to the senses, it is spoken of as rising and setting, and the Self possesses the quality of an agent. As this quality is not, however, essential, but originated by action, the Self is essentially unchanging. This changeful quality of being a knower can belong only to the Self whose essential nature is knowledge; not possibly to the non-intelligent ahaṁkāra. But, you will perhaps say, the ahaṁkāra, although of non- intelligent nature, may become a knower in so far as by approximation to intelligence it becomes a reflection of the latter. How, we ask in return, is this becoming a reflection of intelligence imagined to take place? Does consciousness become a reflection of the ahaṁkāra, or does the ahaṁkāra become a reflection of consciousness? The former alternative is inadmissible, since you will not allow to consciousness the quality of being a knower; and so is the latter since, as explained above, the non-intelligent ahaṁkāra can never become a knower. Moreover, neither consciousness nor the ahaṁkāra are objects of visual perception. Only things seen by the eye have reflections.--Let it then be said that as an iron ball is heated by contact with fire, so the consciousness of being a knower is imparted to the ahaṁkāra through its contact with Intelligence.--This view too is inadmissible; for as you do not allow real knowership to Intelligence, knowership or the consciousness of knowership cannot be imparted to the ahaṁkāra by contact with Intelligence; and much less even can knowership or the consciousness of it be imparted to Intelligence by contact with the essentially non-intelligent ahaṁkāra. Nor can we accept what you say about 'manifestation.' Neither the ahaṁkāra, you say, nor Intelligence is really a knowing subject, but the ahaṁkāra manifests consciousness abiding within itself (within the ahaṁkāra), as the mirror manifests the image abiding within it. But the essentially non-intelligent ahaṁkāra evidently cannot 'manifest' the self-luminous Self. As has been said 'That the non-intelligent ahaṁkāra should manifest the self-luminous Self, has no more sense than to say that a spent coal manifests the Sun.' The truth is that all things depend for their proof on self-luminous consciousness; and now you maintain that one of these things, viz. the non-intelligent ahaṁkāra--which itself depends for its light on consciousness--manifests consciousness, whose essential light never rises or sets, and which is the cause that proves everything! Whoever knows the nature of the Self will justly deride such a view! The relation of 'manifestation' cannot hold good between consciousness and the ahaṁkāra for the further reason also that there is a contradiction in nature between the two, and because it would imply consciousness not to be consciousness. As has been said, 'One cannot manifest the other, owing to contradictoriness; and if the Self were something to be manifested, that would imply its being non- intelligent like a jar.' Nor is the matter improved by your introducing the hand and the sunbeams, and to say that as the sunbeams while manifesting the hand, are at the same time manifested by the hand, so consciousness, while manifesting the ahaṁkāra, is at the same time itself manifested by the latter. The sunbeams are in reality not manifested by the hand at all. What takes place is that the motion of the sunbeams is reversed (reflected) by the opposed hand; they thus become more numerous, and hence are perceived more clearly; but this is due altogether to the multitude of beams, not to any manifesting power on the part of the hand.

What could, moreover, be the nature of that 'manifestation' of the Self consisting of Intelligence, which would be effected through the ahaṁkāra? It cannot be origination; for you acknowledge that what is self- established cannot be originated by anything else. Nor can it be 'illumination' (making to shine forth), since consciousness cannot--according to you--be the object of another consciousness. For the same reason it cannot be any action assisting the means of being conscious of consciousness. For such helpful action could be of two kinds only. It would either be such as to cause the connexion of the object to be known with the sense-organs; as e.g. any action which, in the case of the apprehension of a species or of one's own face, causes connexion between the organ of sight and an individual of the species, or a looking-glass. Or it would be such as to remove some obstructive impurity in the mind of the knowing person; of this kind is the action of calmness and self-restraint with reference to scripture which is the means of apprehending the highest reality. Moreover, even if it were admitted that consciousness may be an object of consciousness, it could not be maintained that the 'I' assists the means whereby that consciousness is effected. For if it did so, it could only be in the way of removing any obstacles impeding the origination of such consciousness; analogous to the way in which a lamp assists the eye by dispelling the darkness which impedes the origination of the apprehension of colour. But in the case under discussion we are unable to imagine such obstacles. There is nothing pertaining to consciousness which obstructs the origination of the knowledge of consciousness and which could be removed by the ahaṁkāra.--There is something, you will perhaps reply, viz. Nescience! Not so, we reply. That Nescience is removed by the ahaṁkāra cannot be admitted; knowledge alone can put an end to Nescience. Nor can consciousness be the abode of Nescience, because in that case Nescience would have the same abode and the same object as knowledge.

In pure knowledge where there is no knowing subject and no object of knowledge--the so-called 'witnessing' principle (sākṣin)--Nescience cannot exist. Jars and similar things cannot be the abode of Nescience because there is no possibility of their being the abode of knowledge, and for the same reason pure knowledge also cannot be the abode of Nescience. And even if consciousness were admitted to be the abode of Nescience, it could not be the object of knowledge; for consciousness being viewed as the Self cannot be the object of knowledge, and hence knowledge cannot terminate the Nescience abiding within consciousness. For knowledge puts an end to Nescience only with regard to its own objects, as in the case of the snake-rope. And the consequence of this would be that the Nescience attached to consciousness could never be destroyed by any one.--If Nescience, we further remark, is viewed as that which can be defined neither as Being nor non-Being, we shall show later on that such Nescience is something quite incomprehensible.--On the other hand, Nescience, if understood to be the antecedent non-existence of knowledge, is not opposed in nature to the origination of knowledge, and hence the dispelling of Nescience cannot be viewed as promoting the means of the knowledge of the Self.--From all this it follows that the ahaṁkāra cannot effect in any way 'manifestation of consciousness.'

Nor (to finish up this point) can it be said that it is the essential nature of manifesting agents to manifest things in so far as the latter have their abode in the former; for such a relation is not observed in the case of lamps and the like (which manifest what lies outside them). The essential nature of manifesting agents rather lies therein that they promote the knowledge of things as they really are, and this is also the nature of whatever promotes knowledge and the means thereof. Nor is it even true that the mirror manifests the face. The mirror is only the cause of a certain irregularity, viz. the reversion of the ocular rays of light, and to this irregularity there is due the appearance of the face within the mirror; but the manifesting agent is the light only. And it is evident that the ahaṁkāra is not capable of producing an irregularity (analogous to that produced by the mirror) in consciousness which is self- luminous.--And--with regard to the second analogous instance alleged by you--the fact is that the species is known through the individual because the latter is its substrate (as expressed in the general principle, 'the species is the form of the individual'), but not because the individual 'manifests' the species. Thus there is no reason, either real or springing from some imperfection, why the consciousness of consciousness should be brought about by its abiding in the ahaṁkāra, and the attribute of being the knowing agent or the consciousness of that cannot therefore belong to the ahaṁkāra. Hence, what constitutes the inward Self is not pure consciousness but the 'I' which proves itself as the knowing subject. In the absence of egoity, 'inwardness' could not be established for consciousness.

The conscious subject persists in deep sleep.

We now come to the question as to the nature of deep sleep. In deep sleep the quality of darkness prevails in the mind and there is no consciousness of outward things, and thus there is no distinct and clear presentation of the 'I'; but all the same the Self somehow presents itself up to the time of waking in the one form of the 'I,' and the latter cannot therefore be said to be absent. Pure consciousness assumed by you (to manifest itself in deep sleep) is really in no better case; for a person risen from deep sleep never represents to himself his state of consciousness during sleep in the form, 'I was pure consciousness free from all egoity and opposed in nature to everything else, witnessing Nescience'; what he thinks is only 'I slept well.' From this form of reflection it appears that even during sleep the Self, i.e. the 'I,' was a knowing subject and perceptive of pleasure. Nor must you urge against this that the reflection has the following form: 'As now I feel pleasure, so I slept then also'; for the reflection is distinctly not of that kind. 1 Nor must you say that owing to the non- permanency of the 'I' its perception of pleasure during sleep cannot connect itself with the waking state. For (the 'I' is permanent as appears from the fact that) the person who has risen from sleep recalls things of which he was conscious before his sleep, 'I did such and such a thing,' 'I observed this or that,' 'I said so or so.'--But, you will perhaps say, he also reflects, 'For such and such a time I was conscious of nothing!'--'And what does this imply?' we ask.--'It implies a negation of everything!'--By no means, we reply. The words 'I was conscious' show that the knowing 'I' persisted, and that hence what is negated is only the objects of knowledge. If the negation implied in 'of nothing' included everything, it would also negative the pure consciousness which you hold to persist in deep sleep. In the judgment 'I was conscious of nothing,' the word 'I' clearly refers to the 'I,' i.e. the knowing Self which persists even during deep sleep, while the words 'was conscious of nothing' negative all knowledge on the part of that 'I'; if, now, in the face of this, you undertake to prove by means of this very judgment that knowledge-- which is expressly denied--existed at the time, and that the persisting knowing Self did not exist, you may address your proof to the patient gods who give no reply!--But--our opponent goes on to urge--I form the following judgment also: 'I then was not conscious of myself,' and from this I understand that the 'I' did not persist during deep sleep!--You do not know, we reply, that this denial of the persistence of the 'I' flatly contradicts the state of consciousness expressed in the judgment 'I was not conscious of myself' and the verbal form of the judgment itself!--But what then is denied by the words 'of myself?-- This, we admit, is a reasonable question. Let us consider the point. What is negated in that judgment is not the knowing 'I' itself, but merely the distinctions of caste, condition of life, etc. which belong to the 'I' at the time of waking. We must distinguish the objects of the several parts of the judgment under discussion. The object of the '(me) myself' is the 'I' distinguished by class characteristics as it presents itself in the waking state; the object of the word 'I' (in the judgment) is that 'I' which consists of a uniform flow of self-consciousness which persists in sleep also, but is then not quite distinct. The judgment 'I did not know myself' therefore means that the sleeper was not conscious of the place where he slept, of his special characteristics, and so on.--It is, moreover, your own view that in deep sleep the Self occupies the position of a witnessing principle with regard to Nescience. But by a witness (sākṣin) we understand someone who knows about something by personal observation (sākṣāt); a person who does not know cannot be a witness. Accordingly, in scripture as well as in ordinary language a knowing subject only, not mere knowledge, is spoken of as a witness; and with this the Reverend Pāṇini also agrees when teaching that the word 'sākṣin' means one who knows in person (Pā. Sū. V, 2, 91). Now this witness is nothing else but the 'I' which is apprehended in the judgment 'I know '; and how then should this 'I' not be apprehended in the state of sleep? That which itself appears to the Self appears as the 'I,' and it thus follows that also in deep sleep and similar states the Self which then shines forth appears as the 'I.'