I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 5

The conscious subject persists in the state of release.

To maintain that the consciousness of the 'I' does not persist in the state of final release is again altogether inappropriate. It in fact amounts to the doctrine--only expressed in somewhat different words--that final release is the annihilation of the Self. The 'I' is not a mere attribute of the Self so that even after its destruction the essential nature of the Self might persist--as it persists on the cessation of ignorance; but it constitutes the very nature of the Self. Such judgments as 'I know', 'Knowledge has arisen in me', show, on the other hand, that we are conscious of knowledge as a mere attribute of the Self.--Moreover, a man who suffering pain, mental or of other kind--whether such pain be real or due to error only--puts himself in relation to pain--'I am suffering pain'--naturally begins to reflect how he may once for all free himself from all these manifold afflictions and enjoy a state of untroubled ease; the desire of final release thus having arisen in him he at once sets to work to accomplish it. If, on the other hand, he were to realise that the effect of such activity would be the loss of personal existence, he surely would turn away as soon as somebody began to tell him about 'release'. And the result of this would be that, in the absence of willing and qualified pupils, the whole scriptural teaching as to final release would lose its authoritative character.--Nor must you maintain against this that even in the state of release there persists pure consciousness; for this by no means improves your case. No sensible person exerts himself under the influence of the idea that after he himself has perished there will remain some entity termed 'pure light!'--What constitutes the 'inward' Self thus is the 'I', the knowing subject.

This 'inward' Self shines forth in the state of final release also as an 'I'; for it appears to itself. The general principle is that whatever being appears to itself appears as an 'I'; both parties in the present dispute establish the existence of the transmigrating Self on such appearance. On the contrary, whatever does not appear as an 'I', does not appear to itself; as jars and the like. Now the emancipated Self does thus appear to itself, and therefore it appears as an 'I'. Nor does this appearance as an 'I' imply in any way that the released Self is subject to Nescience and implicated in the Samsāra; for this would contradict the nature of final release, and moreover the consciousness of the 'I' cannot be the cause of Nescience and so on. Nescience (ignorance) is either ignorance as to essential nature, or the cognition of something under an aspect different from the real one (as when a person suffering from jaundice sees all things yellow); or cognition of what is altogether opposite in nature (as when mother o' pearl is mistaken for silver). Now the 'I' constitutes the essential nature of the Self; how then can the consciousness of the 'I,' i.e. the consciousness of its own true nature, implicate the released Self in Nescience, or, in the Samsāra? The fact rather is that such consciousness destroys Nescience, and so on, because it is essentially opposed to them. In agreement with this we observe that persons like the rishi Vāmadeva, in whom the intuition of their identity with Brahman had totally destroyed all Nescience, enjoyed the consciousness of the personal 'I'; for scripture says, 'Seeing this the rishi Vāmadeva understood, I was Manu and the Sun' (Bri. Up. I, 4, 10). And the highest Brahman also, which is opposed to all other forms of Nescience and denoted and conceived as pure Being, is spoken of in an analogous way; cp. 'Let me make each of these three deities,' etc. (Kh. Up. VI, 3, 3); 'May I be many, may I grow forth' (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 3); 'He thought, shall I send forth worlds?' (Ait. Ār. II, 4, 1, 1); and again, 'Since I transcend the Destructible, and am higher also than the Indestructible, therefore I am proclaimed in the world and in the Veda as the highest Person' (Bha. Gī. XV, 18); 'I am the Self, O Gudākesa.' (Bha. Gī. X, 20); 'Never was I not' (Bha. Gī. II, 12); 'I am the source and the destruction of the whole world' (Bha. Gī. VII, 6); 'I am the source of all; from me proceeds everything' (Bha. Gī. X, 8); 'I am he who raises them from the ocean of the world of death' (Bha. Gī. XII, 7); 'I am the giver of seed, the father' (Bha. Gī. XIV, 4); 'I know the things past' (Bha. Gī. VII, 26).--But if the 'I' (aham) constitutes the essential nature of the Self, how is it that the Holy One teaches the principle of egoity (Ahaṁkāra) to belong to the sphere of objects, 'The great elements, the Ahaṁkāra, the understanding (buddhi), and the Unevolved' (Bha. Gī. XIII, 5)?--As in all passages, we reply, which give information about the true nature of the Self it is spoken of as the 'I', we conclude that the 'I' constitutes the essential nature of the inward Self. Where, on the other hand, the Holy One declares the Ahaṁkāra--a special effect of the Unevolved--to be comprised within the sphere of the Objective, he means that principle which is called Ahaṁkāra, because it causes the assumption of Egoity on the part of the body which belongs to the Not-self. Such egoity constitutes the Ahaṁkāra also designated as pride or arrogance, which causes men to slight persons superior to themselves, and is referred to by scripture in many places as something evil. Such consciousness of the 'I' therefore as is not assimilated by anything else has the Self for its object; while, on the other hand, such consciousness of the 'I' as has the body for its object is mere Nescience. In agreement with this the Reverend Parāsara has said, 'Hear from me the essential nature of Nescience; it is the attribution of Selfhood to what is not the Self.' If the Self were pure consciousness then pure consciousness only, and not the quality of being a knowing subject, would present itself in the body also, which is a Not-self wrongly imagined to be a Self. The conclusion therefore remains that the Self is nothing but the knowing 'I'. Thus it has been said, 'As is proved by perception, and as also results from reasoning and tradition, and from its connexion with ignorance, the Self presents itself as a knowing 'I'. And again, 'That which is different from body, senses, mind, and vital airs; which does not depend on other means; which is permanent, pervading, divided according to bodies-that is the Self blessed in itself.' Here 'not dependent on other means' means 'self-luminous'; and 'pervading' means 'being of such a nature as to enter, owing to excessive minuteness, into all non-sentient things.'

In cases of Scripture conflicting with Perception, Scripture is not stronger.
The True cannot be known through the Untrue.

With reference to the assertion that Perception, which depends on the view of plurality, is based on some defect and hence admits of being otherwise accounted for--whence it follows that it is assimilated by Scripture; we ask you to point out what defect it is on which Perception is based and may hence be accounted for otherwise.--' The beginningless imagination of difference' we expect you to reply.--But, we ask in return, have you then come to know by some other means that this beginningless imagination of difference, acting in a manner analogous to that of certain defects of vision, is really the cause of an altogether perverse view of things?--If you reply that this is known just from the fact that Perception is in conflict with Scripture, we point out that you are reasoning in a circle: you prove the defectiveness of the imagination of plurality through the fact that Scripture tells us about a substance devoid of all difference; and at the same time you prove the latter point through the former. Moreover, if Perception gives rise to perverse cognition because it is based on the imagination of plurality, Scripture also is in no better case--for it is based on the very same view.--If against this you urge that Scripture, although based on a defect, yet assimilates Perception in so far as it is the cause of a cognition which dispels all plurality apprehended through Perception, and thus is later in order than Perception; we reply that the defectiveness of the foundation of Scripture having once been recognised, the circumstance of its being later is of no avail. For if a man is afraid of a rope which he mistakes for a snake his fear does not come to an end because another man, whom he considers to be in error himself, tells him 'This is no snake, do not be afraid.' And that Scripture is founded on something defective is known at the very time of hearing Scripture, for the reflection (which follows on hearing) consists in repeated attempts to cognise the oneness of Brahman--a cognition which is destructive of all the plurality apprehended through the first hearing of the Veda.--We further ask, 'By what means do you arrive at the conclusion that Scripture cannot possibly be assumed to be defective in any way, while defects may be ascribed to Perception'? It is certainly not Consciousness--self-proved and absolutely devoid of all difference-- which enlightens you on this point; for such Consciousness is unrelated to any objects whatever, and incapable of partiality to Scripture. Nor can sense-perception be the source of your conviction; for as it is founded on what is defective it gives perverse information. Nor again the other sources of knowledge; for they are all based on sense-perception. As thus there are no acknowledged means of knowledge to prove your view, you must give it up. But, you will perhaps say, we proceed by means of the ordinary empirical means and objects of knowledge!--What, we ask in reply, do you understand by 'empirical'?-- What rests on immediate unreflective knowledge, but is found not to hold good when tested by logical reasoning!--But what is the use, we ask, of knowledge of this kind? If logical reasoning refutes something known through some means of knowledge, that means of knowledge is no longer authoritative!--Now you will possibly argue as follows: 'Scripture as well as Perception is founded on Nescience; but all the same Perception is assimilated by Scripture. For as the object of Scripture, i.e. Brahman, which is one and without a second, is not seen to be assimilated by any ulterior cognition, Brahman, i.e. pure non-differenced Consciousness, remains as the sole Reality.'--But here too you are wrong, since we must decide that something which rests on a defect is unreal, although it may remain unrefuted. We will illustrate this point by an analogous instance. Let us imagine a race of men afflicted with a certain special defect of vision, without being aware of this their defect, dwelling in some remote mountain caves inaccessible to all other men provided with sound eyes. As we assume all of these cave dwellers to be afflicted with the same defect of vision, they, all of them, will equally see and judge bright things, e.g. the moon, to be double. Now in the case of these people there never arises a subsequent cognition assimilating their primitive cognition; but the latter is false all the same, and its object, viz., the doubleness of the moon, is false likewise; the defect of vision being the cause of a cognition not corresponding to reality.--And so it is with the cognition of Brahman also. This cognition is based on Nescience, and therefore is false, together with its object, viz. Brahman, although no assimilating cognition presents itself.--This conclusion admits of various expressions in logical form. 'The Brahman under dispute is false because it is the object of knowledge which has sprung from what is affected with Nescience; as the phenomenal world is.' 'Brahman is false because it is the object of knowledge; as the world is.' 'Brahman is false because it is the object of knowledge, the rise of which has the Untrue for its cause; as the world is.'

You will now perhaps set forth the following analogy. States of dreaming consciousness--such as the perception of elephants and the like in one's dreams--are unreal, and yet they are the cause of the knowledge of real things, viz. good or ill fortune (portended by those dreams). Hence there is no reason why Scripture--although unreal in so far as based on Nescience--should not likewise be the cause of the cognition of what is real, viz. Brahman.--The two cases are not parallel, we reply. The conscious states experienced in dreams are not unreal; it is only their objects that are false; these objects only, not the conscious states, are assimilated by the waking consciousness. Nobody thinks 'the cognitions of which I was conscious in my dream are unreal'; what men actually think is 'the cognitions are real, but the things are not real.' In the same way the illusive state of consciousness which the magician produces in the minds of other men by means of mantras, drugs, etc., is true, and hence the cause of love and fear; for such states of consciousness also are not assimilated. The cognition which, owing to some defect in the object, the sense organ, etc., apprehends a rope as a snake is real, and hence the cause of fear and other emotions. True also is the imagination which, owing to the nearness of a snake, arises in the mind of a man though not actually bitten, viz. that he has been bitten; true also is the representation of the imagined poison, for it may be the cause of actual death. In the same way the reflection of the face in the water is real, and hence enables us to ascertain details belonging to the real face. All these states of consciousness are real, as we conclude from their having a beginning and actual effects.--Nor would it avail you to object that in the absence of real elephants, and so on, the ideas of them cannot be real. For ideas require only some substrate in general; the mere appearance of a thing is a sufficient substrate, and such an appearance is present in the case in question, owing to a certain defect. The thing we determine to be unreal because it is assimilated; the idea is non-assimilated, and therefore real.

Nor can you quote in favour of your view--of the real being known through the unreal--the instance of the stroke and the letter. The letter being apprehended through the stroke (i.e. the written character) does not furnish a case of the real being apprehended through the unreal; for the stroke itself is real.--But the stroke causes the idea of the letter only in so far as it is apprehended as being a letter, and this 'being a letter' is untrue!--Not so, we reply. If this 'being a letter' were unreal it could not be a means of the apprehension of the letter; for we neither observe nor can prove that what is non-existent and indefinable constitutes a means.--Let then the idea of the letter constitute the means!--In that case, we reply, the apprehension of the real does not spring from the unreal; and besides, it would follow therefrom that the means and what is to be effected thereby would be one, i.e. both would be, without any distinction, the idea of the letter only. Moreover, if the means were constituted by the stroke in so far as it is not the letter, the apprehension of all letters would result from the sight of one stroke; for one stroke may easily be conceived as not being any letter.--But, in the same way as the word 'Devadatta' conventionally denotes some particular man, so some particular stroke apprehended by the eye may conventionally symbolise some particular letter to be apprehended by the ear, and thus a particular stroke may be the cause of the idea of a particular letter!--Quite so, we reply, but on this explanation the real is known through the real; for both stroke and conventional power of symbolisation are real. The case is analogous to that of the idea of a buffalo being caused by the picture of a buffalo; that idea rests on the similarity of picture and thing depicted, and that similarity is something real. Nor can it be said (with a view to proving the Pūrva Pakṣa by another analogous instance) that we meet with a cognition of the real by means of the unreal in the case of sound (śabda) which is essentially uniform, but causes the apprehension of different things by means of difference of tone (nāda). For sound is the cause of the apprehension of different things in so far only as we apprehend the connexion of sound manifesting itself in various tones, with the different things indicated by those various tones. And, moreover, it is not correct to argue on the ground of the uniformity of sound; for only particular significant sounds such as 'ga,' which can be apprehended by the ear, are really 'sound.'-- All this proves that it is difficult indeed to show that the knowledge of a true thing, viz. Brahman, can be derived from Scripture, if Scripture--as based on Nescience--is itself untrue.

Our opponent may finally argue as follows:--Scripture is not unreal in the same sense as a sky-flower is unreal; for antecedently to the cognition of universal non-duality Scripture is viewed as something that is, and only on the rise of that knowledge it is seen to be unreal. At this latter time Scripture no longer is a means of cognising Brahman, devoid of all difference, consisting of pure Intelligence; as long on the other hand as it is such a means, Scripture is; for then we judge 'Scripture is.'--But to this we reply that if Scripture is not (true), the judgment 'Scripture is' is false, and hence the knowledge resting on false Scripture being false likewise, the object of that knowledge, i.e. Brahman itself, is false. If the cognition of fire which rests on mist being mistaken for smoke is false, it follows that the object of that cognition, viz. fire itself, is likewise unreal. Nor can it be shown that (in the case of Brahman) there is no possibility of ulterior assimilative cognition; for there may be such assimilative cognition, viz. the one expressed in the judgment 'the Reality is a Void.' And if you say that this latter judgment rests on error, we point out that according to yourself the knowledge of Brahman is also based on error. And of our judgment (viz. 'the Reality is a Void') it may truly be said that all further negation is impossible.--But there is no need to continue this demolition of an altogether baseless theory.