A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1932 | 241,887 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of vedanta doctrine of soul and the buddhist doctrine of soullessness: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fifth part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 5 - Vedānta Doctrine of Soul and the Buddhist Doctrine of Soullessness

One of the most important points of Śaṅkara’s criticism of Buddhism is directed against its denial of a permanent soul which could unite the different psychological constituents or could behave as the enjoyer of experiences and the controller of all thoughts and actions.

The Buddhists argue that for the production of sense-cognition, as the awareness of a colour or sound, what is required in addition to the sense-data of colours, etc. is the corresponding sense-faculties, while the existence of a soul cannot be deemed indispensable for the purpose[1]. Vasubandhu argues that what is experienced is the sense-data and the psychological elements in groups called skandhas. What one calls self (ātman) cannot be anything more than a mere apparent cognitional existence (prajñapti-sat) of what in reality is but a conglomeration of psychological elements. Had the apparent self been something as different from the psychological elements as colours are from sounds, it would then be regarded as an individual (pudgala) ; but, if its difference from these psychological elements be of the same nature as the difference of the constituents of milk from the appearance of milk, then the self could be admitted only to have a cognitional existence (prajñapti-sat)[2]. The self has, in fact, only a cognitional appearance of separateness from the psychological elements; just as, though milk appears to have a separate existence from the proper combination of its constituent elements, yet it is in reality nothing more than a definite kind of combination of its constituent elements, so the self is nothing more than a certain conglomeration of the psychological elements (skandha), though it may appear to have a separate and independent existence.

The Vātsīputrīyas, however, think that the individual is something different from the skandhas or psychological entities, as its nature is different from the nature of them. The Vātsīputrīyas deny the existence of a permanent soul, but believe in momentary individuals (pudgala) as a category separate and distinct from the skandhas. Just as fire is something different from the fuel that conditioned it, so the name “individual” (pudgala) is given to something conditioned by the skandhas at a given moment in a personal life[3]. Vasubandhu, however, argues against the acceptance of such an individual and says that there is no meaning in accepting such an individual.

Rain and sun have no effects on mere vacuous space, they are of use only to the skin; if the individual is, like the skin, a determiner of the value of experiences, then it must be accepted as external; if it is like vacuous space, then no purpose is fulfilled by accepting it[4]. The Vātsīputrīyas, however, thought that, just as the fuel conditioned the fire, so the personal elements conditioned the individual. By this conditioning the Vātsīputrīyas meant that the personal elements were some sort of a coexisting support[5]. What is meant by saying that the pudgala is conditioned by the personal elements is that, when the skandhas or psychological elements are present, the pudgala is also present there[6].

But Vasubandhu urges that a mere conditioning of this kind is not sufficient to establish the cognitional existence of an individual; for even colour is conditioned by the visual sense, light and attention in such a way that, these being present, there is the perception of light; but can anybody on that ground consider the existence of colour to be a cognitional one? And would cognitional entities deserve to be enumerated as separate categories? Again it may be asked, if such an individual exists, how is it experienced? For, if it be experienced by any of the senses, it must be a sense-datum: for the senses can grasp only their appropriate sense-data, and the individual is no sense-datum. Therefore, just as milk is nothing but the collected sense-data of colour, taste, etc., so also the so-called individual is nothing more than the conglomerated psychological elements[7].

The Vātsīputrīyas argue that, since the psychological elements, the sense-data, etc., are the causes of our experience of the individual, the individual cannot be regarded as being identical with these causal elements which are responsible for their experience; if it were so, then even light, eye, attention, etc., which are causes of the experience of the sense-data, would have to be regarded as being identical in nature with the individual[8]. But it is not so maintained; the sense-datum of sounds and colours is always regarded as being different from the individual, and one always distinguishes an individual from a sense-datum and says “this is sound,” “this is colour” and “this is individual[9].” But the individual is not felt to be as distinct from the psychological elements as colour is from sound.

The principle of difference or distinctness consists in nothing but a difference of moments; a colour is different from a sound because it is experienced at a different moment, while the psychological elements and the individual are not experienced at different moments[10]. But it is argued in reply that, as the sense-data and the individual are neither different nor identical (ratio essendi), so their cognition also is neither different nor identical in experience (ratio cognoscendī)[11]. But Vasubandhu says that, if such a view is taken in this case, then it might as well be taken in all cases wherever there is any conglomeration[12]. Moreover, the separate senses are all limited to their special fields, and the mind which acts with them is also limited to the data supplied by them; there is, therefore, no way in which the so-called individual can be experienced.

In the Ajita sermon Buddha is supposed to say:

“A visual consciousness depends upon the organ of sight and a visible object. When these three (object, sense organ and consciousness) combine, a sensation is produced. It is accompanied by a feeling, a representation and a volition. Only so much is meant, when we are speaking of a human being.

To these (five sets of elements) different names are given, such as a sentient being, a man, Manu’s progeny, a son of Manu, a child, an individual, a life, a soul. If with respect to them the expression is used ‘he sees the object with his own eyes,’ it is false imputation (there being in reality nobody possessing eyes of his own). In common life such expressions with respect to them are current as

‘that is the name of this venerable man, he belongs to such a caste and such a family, he eats such food, this pleases him, he has reached such an age, he has lived so many years, he has died at such an age.’

These O brethren! accordingly are mere words, mere conventional designations.

‘ Expressions are they, (but not truth)!
Real elements have no duration:
Vitality makes them combine
In mutually dependent apparitions[13].”

The Vātsīputrīyas however refer to the Bhāra-hāra-sūtra , in wrhich Buddha is supposed to say:

“O brethren, I shall explain unto you the burden (of life), and moreover I shall explain the taking up of the burden, the laying aside of it and who the carrier is....

What is the burden? All the five aggregates of elements—the substrates of personal life. What is meant by the taking up of the burden? The force of craving for a continuous life, accompanied by passionate desires, the rejoicing at many an object.

What is the laying aside of the burden? It is the wholesale rejection of this craving for a continuation of life, accompanied as it is by passionate desires and rejoicings at many an object, the getting rid of it in every circumstance, its extinction, its end, its suppression, an aversion to it, its restraint, its disappearance.

Who is the carrier? We must answer: it is the individual, i.e.

‘this venerable man having this name, of such a caste, of such a family, eating such food, finding pleasure or displeasure at such things, of such an age, who after a life of such length will pass away having reached such an age[14].’”

But Vasubandhu points out that the carrier of the burden is not to be supposed to be some eternal soul or real individual. It is the momentary group of elements of the preceding moment that is designated as the burden, and the immediately succeeding one the carrier of the burden (bhāra-hāra)[15].

The Vātsīputrīyas again argue that activity implies an active agent, and, since knowing is an action, it also implies the knower who knows, just as the walking of Devadatta implies a Devadatta who walks. But Vasubandhu’s reply to such a contention is that there is nowhere such a unity.

There is no individual like Devadatta: what we call Devadatta is but a conglomeration of elements.

“The light of a lamp is a common metaphorical designation for an uninterrupted production of a series of flashing flames. When this production changes its place, we say that the light has moved. Similarly consciousness is a conventional name for a chain of conscious moments. When it changes its place (i.e. appears in co-ordination with another objective element), we say that it apprehends that object.

And in the same way we speak about the existence of material elements. We say matter ‘is produced,’ ‘it exists’; but there is no difference between existence and the element which does exist. The same applies to consciousness (there is nothing that cognizes, apart from the evanescent flashing of consciousness itself)[16].”

It is easy to see that the analysis of consciousness offered by the Vedānta philosophy of the Śaṅkara school is entirely different from this. The Vedānta holds that the fact of consciousness is entirely different from everything else. So long as the assemblage of the physical or physiological conditions antecedent to the rise of any cognition, as for instance, the presence of illumination, sense-object contact, etc., is being prepared, there is no knowledge, and it is only at a particular moment that the cognition of an object arises. This cognition is in its nature so much different from each and all the elements constituting the so-called assemblage of conditions, that it cannot in any sense be regarded as the product of any collocation of conditions.

Consciousness thus, not being a product of anything and not being further analysable into any constituents, cannot also be regarded as a momentary flashing. Uncaused and unproduced, it is eternal, infinite and unlimited. The main point in which consciousness differs from everything else is the fact of its self-revelation. There is no complexity in consciousness. It is extremely simple, and its only essence or characteristic is pure self-revelation.

The so-called momentary flashing of consciousness is not due to the fact that it is momentary, that it rises into being and is then destroyed the next moment, but to the fact that the objects that are revealed by it are reflected through it from time to time. But the consciousness is always steady and unchangeable in itself. The immediacy (aparokṣatva) of this consciousness is proved by the fact that, though everything else is manifested by coming in touch with it, it itself is never expressed, indicated or manifested by inference or by any other process, but is always self-manifested and self-revealed. All objects become directly revealed to us as soon as they come in touch with it.

Consciousness (saṃvid) is one. It is neither identical with its objects nor on the same plane with them as a constituent element in a collocation of them and consciousness. The objects of consciousness or all that is manifested in consciousness come in touch with consciousness and themselves appear as consciousness. This appearance is such that, when they come in touch with consciousness, they themselves flash forth as consciousness, though that operation is nothing but a false appearance of the non-conscious objects and mental states in the light of consciousness, as being identical with it. But the intrinsic difference between consciousness and its objects is that the former is universal (pratyak) and constant (anuvṛtta), while the latter are particular (apratyak) and alternating (vyāvṛtta).

The awarenesses of a book, a table, etc. appear to be different not because these are different flashings of knowledge, but because of the changing association of consciousness with these objects. The objects do not come into being with the flashings of their awareness, but they have their separate existence and spheres of operation[17].

Consciousness is one and unchanging; it is only when the objects get associated with it that they appear in consciousness and as identical with it in such a way that the flashing of an object in consciousness appears as the flashing of the consciousness itself. It is through an illusion that the object of consciousness and consciousness appear to be welded together into such an integrated whole, that their mutual difference escapes our notice, and that the object of consciousness, which is only like an extraneous colour applied to consciousness, does not appear different or extraneous to it, but as a specific mode of the consciousness itself. Thus what appear as but different awarenesses, as book-cognition, table-cognition, are not in reality different awarenesses, but one unchangeable consciousness successively associated with ever-changing objects which falsely appear to be integrated with it and give rise to the appearance that qualitatively different kinds of consciousness are flashing forth from moment to moment. Consciousness cannot be regarded as momentary.

For, had it been so, it would have appeared different at every different moment. If it is urged that, though different consciousnesses are arising at each different moment, yet on account of extreme similarity this is not noticed; then it may be replied that, if there is difference between the two consciousnesses of two successive moments, then such difference must be grasped either by a different consciousness or by the same consciousness. In the first alternative the third awareness, which grasps the first two awarenesses and their difference, must either be identical with them, and in that case the difference between the three awarenesses would vanish; or it may be different from them, and in that case, if another awareness be required to comprehend their difference and that requires another and so on, there would be a vicious infinite.

If the difference be itself said to be identical with the nature of the consciousness (saṃvit-svarūpa-bhūto bhedah), and if there is nothing to apprehend this difference, then the nonappearance of the difference implies the non-appearance of the consciousness itself; for by hypothesis the difference has been held to be identical with the consciousness itself. The non-appearance of difference, implying the non-appearance of consciousness, would mean utter blindness. The difference between the awareness of one moment and another cannot thus either be logically proved, or realized in experience, which always testifies to the unity of awareness through all moments of its appearance.

It may be held that the appearance of unity is erroneous, and that, as such, it presumes that the awarenesses are similar; for without such a similarity there could not have been the erroneous appearance of unity. But, unless the difference of the awarenesses and their similarity be previously proved, there is nothing which can even suggest that the appearance of unity is erroneous[18]. It cannot be urged that, if the existence of difference and similarity between the awarenesses of two different moments can be proved to be false, then only can the appearance of unity be proved to be true; for the appearance of unity is primary and directly proved by experience. Its evidence can be challenged only if the existence of difference between the awarenesses and their similarity be otherwise proved. The unity of awareness is a recognition of the identity of the awarenesses (pratyabhijñā), which is self-evident.

It has also been pointed out that the Buddhists give a different analysis of the fact of recognition. They hold that perception reveals the existence of things at the moment of perception, whereas recognition involves the supposition of their existence through a period of past time, and this cannot be apprehended by perception, which is limited to the present moment only. If it is suggested that recognition is due to present perception as associated with the impressions (saṃskāra) of previous experience, then such a recognition of identity would not prove the identity of the self as “I am he”—for in the self-luminous self there cannot be any impressions. The mere consciousness as the flash cannot prove any identity; for that is limited to the present moment and cannot refer to past experience and unite it with the experience of the present moment.

The Buddhists on their side deny the existence of recognition as the perception of identity, and think that it is in reality not one but two concepts—“I” and “that”— and not a separate experience of the identity of the self as persisting through time. To this the Vedāntic reply is that, though there cannot be any impressions in the self as pure consciousness, yet the self as associated with the mind (antaḥkaraṇa) can well have impressions (saṃskāra), and so recognition is possible[19]. But it may be objected that the complex of the self and mind would then be playing the double role of knower and the known; for it is the mind containing the impressions and the self that together play the part of the recognizer, and it is exactly those impressions together with the self that form the content of recognition also— and hence in this view the agent and the object have to be regarded as one.

But in reply to this Vidyāraṇya Muni urges that all systems of philosophy infer the existence of soul as different from the body; and, as such an inference is made by the self, the self is thus both the agent and the object of such inferences. Vidyāraṇya says that it may further be urged that the recognizer is constituted of the self in association with the mind, whereas the recognized entity is constituted of the self as qualified by past and present time[20]. Thus the recognition of self-identity does not strictly involve the fact of the oneness of the agent and its object. If it is urged that, since recognition of identity of self involves two concepts, it also involves two moments, then the assertion that all knowledge is momentary also involves two concepts, for momentariness cannot be regarded as being identical with knowledge. The complexity of a concept does not mean that it is not one but two different concepts occurring at two different moments.

If such a maxim is accepted, then the theory that all knowledge is momentary cannot be admitted as one concept, but two concepts occurring at two moments; and hence momentariness cannot be ascribed to knowledge, as is done by the Buddhists. Nor can it be supposed, in accordance with the Prabhākara view, that the existence of the permanent “this self” is admitted merely on the strength of the recognizing notion of “self-identity”; for the self which abides through the past and exists in the present cannot be said to depend on a momentary concept of recognition of self-identity. The notion of self-identity is only a momentary notion, which lasts only at the present time; and hence the real and abiding self cannot owe its reality or existence merely to a psychological notion of the moment.

Again, if it is argued that memory, such as “I had an awareness of a book,” shows that the self wras existing at the past time when the book was perceived, it may be replied that such memory and previous experience may prove the past existence of the self, but it cannot prove that the self that was existing in the past is identical with the self that is now experiencing. The mere existence of self at two moments of time does not prove that the self had persisted through the intervening times. Two notions of two different times cannot serve to explain the idea of recognition, which presupposes the notion of persistence. If it were held that the two notions produce the notion of self-persistence through the notion of recognition, then that would mean that the Buddhist admits that one can recognize himself as “I am he.”

It cannot be said that, since the self itself cannot be perceived, there is no possibility of the perception of the identity of the self through recognition; for, when one remembers “I had an experience,” that very remembrance proves that the self was perceived. Though at the time when one remembers it the self at the time of such memory is felt as the perceiver and not as the object of that self-perception, yet at the time of the previous experience which is now being remembered the self must have been itself the object of the perception.

If it is argued that it is only the past awareness that is the object of memory and this awareness, when remembered, expresses the self as its cognizer, then to this it may be replied that since at the time of remembering there is no longer the past awareness, the cognizer on whom this awareness had to rest itself is also absent. It is only when an awareness reveals itself that it also reveals the cognizer on whom it rests; but, if an awareness is remembered, then the awareness which is remembered is only made an object of present awareness which is self-revealed. But the past awareness which is supposed to be remembered is past and lost and, as such, it neither requires a cognizer on which it has to rest nor actually reveals such a cognizer. It is only the self-revealed cognition that also immediately reveals the cognizer with its own revelation.

But, when a cognition is mediated through memory, its cognizer is not manifested with its remembrance[21] So the self which experienced an awareness in the past can be referred to only through the mediation of memory. So, when the Prabhākaras hold that the existence of the self is realized through such a complex notion as “I am he,” it has to be admitted that it is only through the process of recognition (pratyabhijñā) that the persistence of the self is established. The main point that Vidyāraṇya Muni urges in his Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha is that the fact of recognition or the experience of self-identity cannot be explained by any assumption of two separate concepts, such as the memory of a past cognition or cognizer and the present awareness.

We all feel that our selves are persisting through time and that I who experienced pleasure yesterday and I who am experiencing new pleasures to-day are identical; and the only theory by which this notion of self-persistence or self-identity can be explained is by supposing that the self exists‘and persists through time. The Buddhist attempts at explaining this notion of self-identity by the supposition of the operation of two separate concepts are wholly inadequate, as has already been shown. The perception of selfidentity can therefore be explained only on the basis of a permanently existing self.

Again, the existence of self is not to be argued merely through the inference that cognition, will and feeling presuppose some entity to which they belong and that it is this entity that is called self; for, if that were the case, then no one would be able to distinguish his own self from that of others. For, if the self is only an entity which has to be presupposed as the possessor of cognition, will, etc., then how does one recognize one’s own cognition of things as differing from that of others? What is it that distinguishes my experience from that of others? My self must be immediately perceived by me in order that I may relate any experience to myself.

So the self must be admitted as being self-manifested in all experience; without admitting the self to be self-luminous in all experience the difference between an experience as being my own and as belonging to others could not be explained. It may be objected by some that the self is not self-luminous by itself, but only because, in self-consciousness, the self is an object of the cognizing operation (saṃvit-karma). But this is hardly valid; for the self is not only cognized as an object of self-consciousness, but also in itself in all cognitional operations.

The self cannot be also regarded as being manifested by ideas or percepts. It is not true that the cognition of the self occurs after the cognition of the book or at any different time from it. For it is true that the cognition of the self and that of the book take place at the same point of time; for the same awareness cannot comprehend two different kinds of objects at the same time. If this was done at different points of time, then that would not explain our experience—“I have known this.”

For such a notion implies a relation between the knower and the known; and, if the knower and the known were grasped in knowledge at two different points of time, there is nothing which could unite them together in the same act of knowledge. It is also wrong to maintain that the self is manifested only as the upholder of ideas; for the self is manifested in the knowing operation itself. So, since the self cannot be regarded as being either the upholder or cognizer of ideas or their object, there is but one way in which it can be considered as self-manifesting or self-revealing (sva-prakāśa). The immediacy of the self is thus its self-revealing and self-manifesting nature. The existence of self is thus proved by the self-luminous nature of the self.

The self is the cognizer of the objects only in the sense that under certain conditions of the operation of the mind there is the mind-object contact through a particular sense, and, as the result thereof, these objects appear in consciousness by a strange illusion; so also ideas of the mind, concepts, volitions and emotions appear in consciousness and themselves appear as conscious states, as if consciousness was their natural and normal character, though in reality they are only illusorily imposed upon the consciousness— the self-luminous self.

Ānandabodha Bhattārakācārya, from whom Vidyāraṇya often borrows his arguments, says that the self-luminosity of the self has to be admitted, because it cannot be determined as being manifested by anything else. The self cannot be regarded as being perceived by a mental perception (rnānasa pratyakṣa) ; for that would involve the supposition that the self is the object of its own operation; for cognition is at any rate a function of the self. The functions of cognition belonging to the self cannot affect the self itself[22]. The Vedānta has also to fight against the Prabhākara view which regards cognition as manifesting the object and the self along with itself, as against its own view that it is the self which is identical with knowledge and which is self-manifesting.

Ānandabodha thus objects to the Prabhākara view, that it is the object-cognition which expresses both the self and the not-self, and holds that the self cannot be regarded as an object of awareness. Ānandabodha points out that it may be enunciated as a universal proposition that what is manifested by cognition must necessarily be an object of cognition, and that therefore, if the self is not an object of cognition, it is not manifested by cognition[23]. Therefore the self or the cognizer is not manifested by cognition; for, like cognition, it is self-manifested and immediate without being an object of cognition[24].

The self-luminosity of cognition is argued by Ānandabodha. He says that, if it is held that cognition does not manifest itself, though it manifests its objects, it may be replied that, if it were so, then at the time when an object is cognized the cognizer would have doubted if he had any cognition at the time or not. If anyone is asked whether he has seen a certain person or not, he is sure about his own knowledge that he has seen him and never doubts it. It is therefore certain that, when an object is revealed by any cognition, the cognition is itself revealed as well. If it is argued that such a cognition is revealed by some other cognition, then it might require some other cognition and that another and so on ad infinitum.;, and thus there is a vicious infinite. Nor can it be held that there is some other mental cognition (occurring either simultaneously with the awareness of the object or at a later moment) by which the awareness of the awareness of the object is further cognized.

For from the same mind-contact there cannot be two different awarenesses of the type discussed. If at a later moment, then, there is mind-activity, cessation of one mind-contact, and again another mind-activity and the rise of another mind-contact, that would imply many intervening moments, and thus the cognition which is supposed to cognize an awareness of an object would take place at a much later moment, when the awareness which it has to reveal is already passed. It has therefore to be admitted that cognition is itself self-luminous and that, while manifesting other objects, it manifests itself also. The objection raised is that the self or the cognition cannot affect itself by its own functioning (vṛtti) ; the reply is that cognition is like light and has no intervening operation by which it affects itself or its objects.

Just as light removes darkness, helps the operation of the eye and illuminates the object and manifests itself all in one moment without any intervening operation of any other light, so cognition also in one flash manifests itself and its objects, and there is no functioning of it by which it has to affect itself. This cognition cannot be described as being mere momentary flashes, on the ground that, when there is the blue awareness, there is not the yellow awareness; for apart from the blue awareness, the yellow awareness or the white awareness there is also the natural basic awareness or consciousness, which cannot be denied. It would be wrong to say that there are only the particular awarenesses which appear and vanish from moment to moment; for, had there been only a series of particular awarenesses, then there would be nothing by which their differences could be realized.

Each awareness in the series would be of a particular and definite character, and, as it passed away, would give place to another, and that again to another, so that there would be no way of distinguishing one awareness from another; for according to the theory under discussion there is no consciousness except the passing awarenesses, and thus there would be no way by which their differences could be noticed; for, even though the object of awareness, such as blue and yellow, differed amongst themselves, that would fail to explain how the difference of a blue awareness and a yellow awareness could be apprehended. So the best would be to admit the self to be of the nature of pure consciousness.

It will appear from the above discussion that the Vedānta had to refute three opponents in establishing its doctrine that the self is of the nature of pure consciousness and that it is permanent and not momentary. The first opponent was the Buddhist, who believed neither in the existence of the self nor in the nature of any pure permanent consciousness. The Buddhist objection that there was no permanent self could be well warded off by the Vedānta by appealing to the verdict of our notion of self-identity—which could not be explained on the Buddhist method by the supposition of two separate notions of a past “that self” and the present “I am.” Nor can consciousness be regarded as being nothing more than a series of passing ideas or particular awarenesses; for on such a theory it would be impossible to explain how we can react upon our mental states and note their differences.

Consciousness has thus to be admitted as permanent. Against the second opponent, the Naiyāyika, the Vedānta urges that the self is not the inferred object to which awarenesses, volitions or feelings belong, but is directly and immediately intuited. For, had it not been so, how could one distinguish his own experiences as his own and as different from those of others? The internalness of my own experiences shows that they are directly intuited as my own, and not merely supposed as belonging to some self who was the possessor of his experiences. For inference cannot reveal the internalness of any cognition or feeling. Against the third opponent, the Mīmāṃsaka, the Vedānta urges that the self-revealing character belongs to the self which is identical with thought—as against the Mīmāṃsā view, that thought as a self-revealing entity revealed the self and the objects as different from it. The identity of the self and thought and the self-revealing character of it are also urged; and it is shown by a variety of dialectical reasoning that such a supposition is the only reasonable alternative that is left to us.

This self as pure consciousness is absolutely impersonal, unlimited and infinite. In order to make it possible that this one self should appear as many individuals and as God, it is supposed that it manifests itself differently through the veil of māyā. Thus, according to the Siddhānta-leśa , it is said in the Prakaṭārtha-vivaraṇa that, when this pure consciousness is reflected through the beginningless, indescribable māyā , it is called īśvara or God. But, when it is reflected through the limited parts of māyā containing powers of veiling and of diverse creation (called avidyā), there are the manifestations of individual souls or jīvas. It is again said in the Tattva-viveka of Nṛsiṃhāśrama that, when this pure consciousness is reflected through the pure sattva qualities, as dominating over other impure parts of prakṛti, there is the manifestation of God.

Whereas, when the pure consciousness is reflected through the impure parts of rajas and tamas, as dominating over the sattva part of prakṛti (called also avidyā), there are the manifestations of the individual selves or jīvas. The same prakṛti in its two aspects, as predominating in sattva and as predominating in rajas and tamas , goes by the name of māyā and avidyā and forms the conditioning factors (upādhi) of the pure consciousness, which on account of the different characters of the conditioning factors of māyā and avidyā appear as the omniscient God and the ignorant individual souls. Sarvajñātma Muni thinks that, when the pure consciousness is reflected through avidyā, it is called īśvara, and, when it is reflected through mind (antaḥkaraṇa), it is called jīva.

These various methods of accounting for the origin of individual selves and God have but little philosophical significance. But they go to show that the principal interest of the Vedānta lies in establishing the supreme reality of a transcendental principle of pure consciousness, which, though always untouched and unattached in its own nature, is yet the underlying principle which can explain all the facts of the enlivening and enlightening of all our conscious experiences. All that is limited, be it an individual self or an individual object of awareness, is in some sense or other an illusory imposition of the modification of a non-conscious principle on the principle of consciousness.

The Vedānta is both unwilling and incapable of explaining the nature of the world-process in all its details, in which philosophy and science are equally interested. Its only interest is to prove that the world-process presupposes the existence of a principle of pure consciousness which is absolutely and ultimately real, as it is immediate and intuitive. Reality means what is not determined by anything else; and in this sense pure consciousness is the only reality—and all else is indescribable—neither real nor unreal; and the Vedānta is not interested to discover what may be its nature.

Footnotes and references:


The arguments here followed are those of Vasubandhu, as found in his Ahhidharma-kośa, and are based on Prof. Stcherbatsky’s translation of the appendix to ch. viii of that work, called the Pudgala-viniścaya, and Yaśomitra’s commentary in manuscript from Nepal, borrowed from Viśvabhārātī, Santini-ketan, Bengal.


yadi yathā rūpādiḥ śabdāder bhāvāntaram abhipreyate pudgala iti abhyupogato bhavati bhinna-lakṣaṇaṃ hi rīīpam śabdād ityādi kṣīrādivat samudāyaś cet prajñaptitaḥ.
Viśvabhāratī MS. p. 337.


Stcherbatsky’s translation of the Pudgala-vimścaya, Bulletin de VAcademie des Sciences de Russie, p. 830.

The exact text of Vasubandhu, as translated from Tibetan in a note, runs thus: gṛhīta-pratyutpannābhyantara-skandḥam upādāyapudgala-prajñaptiḥ.
p. 953.


Vātśīputrīyāṇāṃ tīrthika-dṛṣṭiḥ prasajyate niṣprayojanatvaṃ ca
varṣāta-pābhyāṃ kiṃ vyomnaś carmaṇy-asti tayoḥ phalam
carmopamaś cet sa nityaḥ khatulyaś ced asatphalaḥ.

                                                  MS. of Yaśomitra’s commentary, p. 338.


āśraya-bhūtaḥ saha-bhūtaś ca.


rūpasyāpi prajñaptir vaktavyā cakṣur-ādiṣu satsu tasyopalambhāt, tāni cakṣur-ādīny upādāya rūpam prajñāpyate.


yathā rūpādtnyeva samastānisamuditāni kṣīram iti udakamiti vā prajñāpyate , tathā skandhāś ca samastā pudgala iti prajñāpyate, iti siddham.
      MS. of Yaśomitra’s commentary, p. 339 A.


yathā rūpam pudgalopalabdheḥ kāraṇaṃ bhavati sa ca tebhyo ’nyo na vaktavyaḥ āloka-cakṣur-manaskārā api rūpopalabdheḥ kāraṇaṃ bhavati tad api tad-abhinna-svabhāvaḥ pudgalaḥ prāpnoti.


Ibid. p. 339 B.


svalakṣaṇād api kṣaṇāntaram any ad ity udāhāryam.


yathā rūpa-pudgalayor anyānanyatvam avaktavyam evaṃ tadupalabdhyor api anyānanyatvam avaktavyam.


yo ’yaṃ siddhāntaḥ pudgala eva vaktavyaḥ so ’yam bhidyate saṃskṛtam api avaktavyam iti kṛtvā.


Stcherbatsky’s translation in Bulletin de l’Academie des Sciences de Russie.


Stcherbatsky’s translation.


Yaśomitra points out that there is no carrier of the burden different from the collection of the skandhas— bhārādānavan na skandhebhyo ’rthāntara-bhūtaḥ pudgala ity arthaḥ.
Viśvabhāratī MS.


Stcherbatsky’s translation in Bulletin de l’Acadēmie des Sciences de Russie, pp.938-939.


tattva-darśī tu nityam advitīyaṃ vijñānaṃ viṣayāś ca tatrādhyastāḥ pṛthagartha-kriyā-samarthās teṣārn cābādhitaṃ sthāyitvam astīti vadati. Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha, p. 74, the Vizianagram Sanskrit Series, Benares, 1893.


Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha, p. 76.


kevale cidātmani janya-jñāna-tat-saṃskārayor asambhave ’py antaḥkaraṇa-viśiṣṭe tat-sambhavād ukta-pratyabhijñā kiṃ na syāt.
p. 76.


antaḥkaraṇa-viśiṣṭatayaivātmanaḥ pratyabhijñātṛtvaṃ purvapara-kala-viśiṣṭatayā ca pratyabhijñeyatvam.
p. 77.


svayaṃprakāśamānaṃ hi saṃvedanam aśrayaṃ sādhayati na tu smṛti-viṣayatayā para-prakāśyam.
, p. 78.


tathā sati svādhāra-vijñāna-vṛtti-vyāpyatvād ātmanaḥ karmatve svātmani vṛtti-virodhād iti brūmati.
p. 131.


Ibid. pp. 134-135.


saṃveditā na saṃvid-adhīna-prakāśaḥ saṃvit-karmatām antareṇa aparok-ṣatvāt saṃvedanavat.
, p. 135.

This argument is borrowed verbatim by Vidyāranya in his Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha , p. 85.

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