A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of vimuktatman (a.d. 1200): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twenty-third part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Vimuktātman, a disciple of Avyayātman Bhagavat Pūjyapāda, wrote his Iṣṭa-siddhi probably not later than the early years of the thirteenth century. He is quoted and referred to by Madhusūdana in his Advaita-siddhi and by Rāmādvaya in his Vedānta-kaumudī of the fourteenth century. It was commented upon by Jñānottama, the teacher of Citsukha, and this commentary is called Iṣṭa-siddhi-vyākhyā or Iṣṭa-siddhi-vivaraṇa. For reasons stated elsewhere Jñānottama could not have flourished later than the latter half of the thirteenth century. Vimuktātman wrote also another work, called Pramāṇa-vṛtti-nirṇaya , to which he refers in his Iṣṭa-siddhi (MS. p. 72).

The work has not yet been published, and the manuscript from the Adyar Library, which is a transcript copy of a manuscript of the Nāduvil Matham, Cochin State, and which has been available to the present writer, is very fragmentary in many parts; so much so, that it is often extremely difficult to follow properly the meaning of the discussions. The work is divided into eight chapters, and is devoted in a very large part to discussions relating to the analysis of illusions in the Vedānta school and in the other schools of philosophy. This work is to be regarded as one of the four traditional Siddhis, such as the Brahmasiddhi by Maṇḍana, the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi by Sureśvara, It is easy to see how Dharmarājādhvarīndra elaborated his Vedāntic theory of perception and inference with these and other data worked out by his pre-ḍecessors.

the Iṣṭa-siddhi by Vimuktātman and the Advaita-siddhi by Madhusūdana. Hitherto only the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi and the Advaita-siddhi have been published. The Brahma-siddhi is expected to be published soon in Madras; but as yet the present writer is not aware of any venture regarding this important work.

The work begins with the interpretation of a salutation made by the author, in which he offers his adoration to that birthless, incognizable, infinite intuitive consciousness of the nature of selfjoy which is the canvas on which the illusory world-appearance has been painted. Thus he starts the discussion regarding the nature of the ultimate reality as pure intuitive consciousness (anubhūti). Nothing can be beginningless and eternal, except pure consciousness. The atoms are often regarded as beginningless; but, since they have colours and other sense-properties, they are like other objects of nature, and they have parts also, as without them no combination of atoms would be possible. Only that can be indivisible which is partless and beginningless, and it is only the intuitive consciousness that can be said to be so.

The difference between consciousness and other objects is this, that, while the latter can be described as the “this” or the object, the former is clearly not such. But, though this difference is generally accepted, dialectical reasoning shows that the two are not intrinsically different. There cannot logically be any difference between the perceiving principle (dṛk) and the perceived (dṛśya) ; for the former is unperceived (adṛśyatvāt). No difference can be realized between a perceived and an unperceived entity; for all difference relates two cognized entities. But it may be argued that, though the perceiver may not be cognized, yet he is self-luminous, and therefore the notion of difference ought to be manifested. A reply to this objection involves a consideration regarding the nature of difference. If difference were of the nature of the entities that differed, then difference should not be dependent on a reference to another (na svarūpa-dṛṣṭiḥ prati-yogy-apekṣā).

The difference has thus to be regarded as a characteristic (dharma) different from the nature of the differing entities and cognized by a distinct knowing process like colours, tastes, etc.[1] But this view also is not correct, since it is difficult to admit “difference” as an entity different from the differing entities; for such a difference would involve another difference by which it is known, and that another and that another, we should have an infinite regress; and the same objection applies to the admission of mutual negation as a separate entity. This being so, it is difficult to imagine how “difference” or mutual negation between the perceiver and the perceived can be cognized; for it is impossible that there should be any other cognition by which this “difference,” or mutual negation which has the perceiver as one of its alternating poles, could be perceived[2].

Moreover, the self-luminous perceiving power is always present, and it is impossible that it could be negated—a condition without which neither difference nor negation could be possible. Moreover, if it is admitted that such a difference is cognized, then that very fact proves that it is not a characteristic of the perceiving self. If this difference is admitted to be self-luminous, then it would not await a reference to another, which is a condition for all notions of difference or mutual negation. Therefore, “difference” or “mutual negation” cannot be established, either as the essence of the perceiving self or as its characteristics; and as there is no other way in which this difference can be conceived, it is clear that there is no difference between the perceiving self and its characteristics.

Again, negation is defined as the non-perception of a perceivable thing; but the perceiving self is of the very nature of perception, and its non-perception would be impossible. Admitting for the sake of argument that the perceiving self could be negated, how could there be any knowledge of such a negation? for without the self there could be no perception, as it is itself of the nature of perception. So the notion of the negation of the perceiving self cannot be anything but illusion. Thus the perceiving self and the perceived (dṛk and dṛśya) cannot be differentiated from each other.

The difficulty, however, arises that, if the perceiving self and the perceived were identical, then the infinite limitations and differences that are characteristic of the perceived would also be characteristic of the perceiver; and there are the further objections to such a supposition that it is against all ordinary usage and experience. It may be argued that the two are identical, since they are both experienced simultaneously (sahopalambha-niyamāt); but the reply is that, as two are experienced and not one, they cannot be regarded as identical, for in the very experience of the two their difference is also manifested[3]. In spite of such obvious contradiction of experience one could not venture to affirm the identity of the perceiver and the perceived[4].

The maxim of identity of the perceiver and the perceived because of simultaneous perception cannot be regarded as true; for, firstly, the perceiver is never a cognized object, and the perceived is never self-luminous, secondly, the perceiver is always self-revealing, but not so the perceived, and, thirdly, though the “perceived” cannot be revealed without the perceiver, the latter is always self-revealed. There is thus plainly no simultaneity of the perceiver and the perceived. When a perceived object A is illuminated in consciousness, the other objects B, C,D , etc. are not illuminated, and, when the perceived object B is illuminated, A is not illuminated, but the consciousness (samvid) is always self-illuminated; so no consciousness can be regarded as being always qualified by a particular objective content; for, had it been so, that particular content would always have stood self-revealed[5]. Moreover, each particular cognition (e.g. awareness of blue) is momentary and self-revealed and, as such, cannot be the object of any other cognition; and, if any particular awareness could be the object of any other awareness, then it would not be awareness, but a mere object, like a jug or a book.

There is thus an intrinsic difference between awareness and the object, and so the perceiver, as pure awareness, cannot be identified with its object[6]. It has already been pointed out that the perceiver and the perceived cannot be regarded as different, and now it is shown that they cannot be regarded as identical. There is another alternative, viz. that they may be both identical and different (which is the bhedābheda view of Bhāskara and Rāmānuja and others), and Vimuktātman tries to show that this alternative is also impossible and that the perceiver and the perceived cannot be regarded as being both identical and different. The upholder of the bhedābheda view is supposed to say that, though the perceiver and the perceived cannot, as such, be regarded as identical, yet they may be regarded as one in their nature as Brahman.

But in reply to this it may be urged that, if they are both one and identical with Brahman, there would be no difference between them. If it is argued that their identity with Brahman is in another form, then also the question arises whether their forms as perceiver and perceived are identical with the form in which they are identical with Brahman; and no one is aware of any form of the perceiver and the perceived other than their forms as such, and therefore it cannot be admitted that in spite of their difference they have any form in which they are one and identical. If again it is objected that it is quite possible that an identical entity should have two different forms, then also the question arises whether these forms are one, different or both identical with that entity and different. In the first alternative the forms would not be different; in the second they would not be one with the entity.

Moreover, if any part of the entity be identical with any particular form, it cannot also be identical with other forms; for then these different forms would not be different from one another; and, if again the forms are identical with the entity, how can one distinguish the entity (rūpin) from the forms (rūpa) ? In the third alternative the question arises whether the entity is identical with one particular form of it and different from other forms, or whether it is both identical with the same form and different. In the first case each form would have two forms, and these again other two forms in which they are identical and different, and these other two forms, and so on, and we should have infinite regress: and the same kind of infinite regress would appear in the relation between the entity and its forms. For these and similar reasons it is impossible to hold that the perceiver and the perceived are different as such and yet one and identical as Brahman.

If the manifold world is neither different nor identical nor both different and identical with the perceiver, what then is its status? The perceiver is indeed the same as pure perception and pure bliss, and, if it is neither identical nor different nor both identical with the manifold world and different, the manifold world must necessarily be unsubstantial (avastu); for, if it had any substantiality, it might have been related in one of the above three ways of relation. But, if it is unsubstantial, then none of the above objections would apply. But it may again be objected that, if the world were unsubstantial, then both our common experience and our practical dealing with this world would be contradicted. To this Vimuktātman’s reply is that, since the world is admitted to be made up of māyā (māyā-nirmitatvābhyupagamāt), and since the effects of māyā canot be regarded either as substantial or as unsubstantial, none of the above objections would be applicable to this view.

Since the manifold world is not a substance, its admission cannot disturb the monistic view, and, since it is not unsubstantial, the facts of experience may also be justified[7]. As an instance of such an appearance which is neither vastu (substance) nor avastu, one may refer to dream-appearances, which are not regarded as unreal because of their nature as neither substance nor not-substance, but because they are contradicted in experience. Just as a canvas is neither the material of the picture painted on it nor a constituent of the picture, and just as the picture cannot be regarded as being a modification of the canvas in the same way as a jug is a modification of clay, or as a change of quality, like the redness in ripe mangoes, and just as the canvas was there before the painting, and just as it would remain even if the painting were washed away, whereas the painting would not be there without the canvas, so the pure consciousness also is related to this world-appearance, which is but a painting of māyā on it[8].

Māyā is unspeakable and indescribable (anirvacanīyā), not as different from both being and non-being, but as involving the characters of both being and non-being. It is thus regarded as a power of ignorance (amdyā-śakti) which is the material cause of all objects of perception otherwise called matter (sarva-jaḍopādāna-bhūtā). But, just as fire springing from bamboos may burn up the same bamboos even to their very roots, so Brahma-knowledge, which is itself a product of ignorance and its processes, destroys the self-same ignorance from which it was produced and its processes and at last itself subsides and leaves the Brahman to shine in its own radiance[9].

The functions of the pramāṇas, which are all mere processes of ignorance, ajñāna or avidyā, consist only in the removal of obstructions veiling the illumination of the self-luminous consciousness, just as the digging of a well means the removal of all earth that was obstructing the omnipresent ākāśa or space; the pramāṇas have thus no function of manifesting the self-luminous consciousness, and only remove the veiling ajñāna[10]. So Brahma-knowledge also means the removal of the last remnants of ajñāna, after which Brahma-knowledge as conceptual knowledge, being the last vestige of ajñāna, also ceases of itself. This cessation of ajñāna is as unspeakable as ajñāna itself. Unlike Maṇḍana, Vimuktātman does not consider avidyā to be merely subjective, but regards it as being both subjective and objective, involving within it not only all phenomena, but all their mutual relations and also the relation with which it is supposed to be related to the pure consciousness, which is in reality beyond all relations.

Vimuktātman devotes a large part of his work to the criticism of the different kinds of theories of illusion (khyāti), and more particularly to the criticism of anyathākhyāti. These contain many new and important points; but, as the essential features of these theories of illusion and their criticisms have already been dealt with in the tenth chapter of the first volume, it is not desirable to enter into these fresh criticisms of Vimuktātman, which do not involve any new point of view in Vedāntic interpretation. He also deals with some of the principal Vedāntic topics of discussion, such as the nature of bondage, emancipation, and the reconciliation of the pluralistic experience of practical life with the monistic doctrine of the Vedānta; but, as there are not here any strikingly new modes of approach, these may be left out in the present work.

Footnotes and references:


tasmāt kathañcit bḥinno jñānāntara-gamyo rūpa-rasādivad bhedo ’bhyupeyaḥ.
      Adyar Iṣṭa-siddhi MS. p. 5.


evaṃ ca sati na ḍṛg-ḍṛśyayor bheḍo draṣṭum śakyaḥ
nāpy anyonyābhāvaḥ na hi dṛśaḥ svayaṃ dṛṣṭeḥ
prati-yogy-apekṣa-drṣṭy-antara-dṛśyaṃ rūpāntaraṃ svaṃ
samasti svayaṃ dṛṣṭitva-hānāt.
MS. p. 6.


abheḍe saha-bḥānāyogāḍ ḍvayor hi saha-bhānam na ekasyaiva na hi ḍṛśaiva dṛk saha bhātlti bhavatāpy ucyate, nāpi ḍṛśyenaiva dṛśyaṃ saha bhātīti kintu dṛg-dṛśyayoḥ saha bhānam ucyate atas tayor bhedo bhāty eva.
      MS. p. 25.


tasmāt sarva-vyavahāra-lopa-prasaṅgān na bhedo dṛg-dṛśyaoḥ.


kiṃ vidyud-viśeṣitatā nāma saṃvidaḥ svarūpam uta saṃvedyasya, yadi sam'oidaḥ sāpi bhāty eva saṃvid-bhānāt saṃvedya-svarūpaṃ cet tadā bhānān na saṃvido bhānam.
p. 27.


asaṃvedyaiva saṃvit samvedyaṃ cāsaṃvid eva, ataḥ saṃvedyasya ghaṭa-sukhāḍeḥ saṃvidaś cābheda-gandho ’pi na pramāṇavān.
p. 31.


prapañcasya vastutvābhāvāti nādvaita-hōniḥ avastutvābhāvāc capratyakṣādy-aprāmāṇyam' apy-ukta-doṣābḥāvāt.
      MS. p. 64.


yatha citrasya bhittiḥ sākṣāt nopāḍānam nāpi sahajaṃ citraṃ tasyāh tiāpy-avasthāntaraṃ mṛda iva ghaṭādiḥ nāpi guṇāntarāgamah āmrasyeva raktatādiḥ na cāsyāh janmādiś dtrāt prāg ūrdhaṃ ca bhāvāt, yady api bhittiṃ vinā citraṃ na bhāti tathāpi na sā citraṃ vinā bḥāti ity evam-ādy-anubhūtir bhitti-jagac-citrayor yojyam.
p. 73.


MS. p. 137.


Ibid. p. 143.

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