A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of nature of knowledge: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “controversy between the dualists and the monists”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Vyāsa-tīrtha argues that, if the reasons, cognizability, etc., are supposed to indicate the falsity of the world-appearance and if they are applied to the inferential apparatus, then they also are false; and, if they are not false, then all the world-appearance is false, and the argument for the falsity of the world is fallacious. Vyāsa-tīrtha says further that, if the Śaṅkarite be asked to explain the nature of true reality, he wili naturally be liable to confusion. It cannot be regarded as an object of awareness, because chimerical entities are also objects of awareness; it cannot be described as direct awareness, because then it would not belong to any eternal and transcendental entities which are unperceiving, and the world-appearance also, which is directly perceived, would not be false, and the inference, e.g., of fire based upon an illusory perception of the reason (e.g., the water-vapour in a lake), would also be true. Knowledge does not contribute to the existence of things all their properties; even if fire is not known as fire, it can burn all the same. Thus existence does not depend upon any kind of awareness. It is also wrong to define reality as practical behaviour; for, unless the nature of world-appearance is known, the nature of practical behaviour is not known. The world as such must be either existent or non-existent, and there is no other third way of subsistence; the non-existence of the world cannot be proved by any existent proof, because existence and non-existence are opposed to each other; nor can it be proved by non-existent proofs, simply because they are non-existent. There cannot be any being such that it exists in common with non-being and ultimate being[1].

Madusūdana says that the false may be distinguished from the true by exactly the same kind of considerations which lead the opponent to distinguish between the perception of the blueness of the sky and the ordinary objects of experience such as a jug, a rope, etc. The nature of reality that has been conceded to the world-appearance is that it is not contradicted by anything other than Brahma-knowledge.

Vyāsa-tīrtha points out that the contention of the Śaṅkarites that there cannot be any relation between knowledge and its contents is borrowed from the Buddhists, wrho consider awareness and its objects to be the same. The Śaṅkarites hold that, if the objects are considered to be real, then it is difficult to show how there can be any relation between knowledge and the objects revealed by it; for the two accepted relations of contact and inseparable inherence (samavāya) cannot hold between them. The relation of objectivity is also too obscure to be defined; and therefore it must be admitted that the relation between knowledge and the objects is wholly illusory.

To this Vyāsa-tīrtha replies that, though all objects are regarded by the Śaṅkarites as illusorily imposed upon the one supreme perceiver, the Brahman, yet for explanation of specific cognitions of specific individuals, sense-contact, leading to the rise of different perceptions of different individuals, is admitted by them. The Śaṅkarites are not idealists to the same extent as the Buddhists are. Even if it be admitted that pure consciousness may appear different under various conditions, yet there is no reason why the world-objects should be considered as impositions upon pure consciousness. Even the admission of the world-objects as illusory impositions does not help us very much; for there cannot be any knowledge of these world-objects without the cognitive function (vṛtti) of the mind. Again, if all world-objects are illusory impositions, then it is meaningless to put into the modus operandi of the perceptual process a reflection of the pure consciousness through its specific functions, or into the specific cognitive senses the consciousness underlying the objects[2]. The mere fact that neither contact nor inseparable relation can be of any avail does not necessarily imply that perceptual forms are all illusory; for, if there is an actual experience, then relations have naturally to be imagined to explain the situation[3]. Again, if it be admitted for argument’s sake that there is no way of proving the validity of the assumption of a relation between knowledge and its object, yet that would not prove the falsity of the objects themselves; what it would do at the utmost would be to deny the validity of relations subsisting between knowledge and its objects. Again, if the Śaṅkarite finds no difficulty in admitting the relation of the pure consciousness to the vṛtti, why does he find any difficulty in admitting such a relation to the objects[4]?

Even if the world-objects be regarded as indescribable, yet their existence may be regarded as being indescribable in the same way as that of Brahman. The Śaṅkarite has also to admit the existence of the objective world and to offer explanations for the way in which it is perceived. The only difference of this view from that of the realists is that, while the Śaṅkarite considers the objects to be ultimately false, the realist considers them to be real; and the same reason that leads the Śaṅkarites to consider them as having a higher order of reality than the merely illusory leads the realists to consider them as ultimately real[5]. The Brahman itself is in a sense as indescribable as the world-objects[6]. Things, so far as they are known and so far as they have certain common characteristics, can well be described, though in their unique nature each of them has such peculiarities that they cannot be properly defined and expressed. Each human face may be well known by the uncontradicted testimony of our senses; but still it cannot be described with its own specific and peculiar characteristics[7]. So it is difficult to describe the specific nature of Brahman as the identity of pure being, bliss and consciousness; yet its reality is not denied. The same is the case with the world-objects, and, though they are indescribable in their specific natures, yet their reality cannot be denied[8].

Madusūdana generally passes over many of the points of objection raised by Vyāsa-tīrtha; one of these points is that relations are grasped directly and that there is no incongruity in thinking that, if relations cannot be mediated, they can yet be grasped directly by the senses. Madhusūdana’s contention is that, if relations be described as self-subsistent, then they cannot be explained and must therefore be regarded as false. Vyāsatīrtha now refers to the Śaṅkarite account of perception, and says that in their view the objects are supposed to be there and the veil over them is removed by the mind (antaḥkaraṇa) transforming itself into the form of the object; he says also, that, if this is so, then the objects of perception cannot be regarded as mental. If the objects were merely mental, the application of the sense-organs would be unnecessary for their perception; in dreams mental objects are “perceived,” but the visual organs are not exercised. The difference between the ordinary practical experience of the world and that of dreams is only that the former is longer in duration, and so, if in dream-experience the mental objects can be perceived without the exercise of the visual organ, there is no reason why the world-objects also cannot be perceived in the same way. Moreover, in the case of non-perceptual cognition (parokṣa jñāna) the Śaṅkarites themselves admit that the objects are illuminated without any direct operation of antaḥkaraṇa, in association with the senses, involving an actual contact with the objects. There is no reason why the same thing cannot take place in ordinary perception.

The difference of the antaḥkaraṇa transformation in the two cases might equally well explain the difference between the perceptual (a-parokṣa) and non-perceptual (parokṣa) cognitions, and for this it is not necessary to assume that in one case the antaḥkaraṇa goes out and in another case remains inside. It cannot be held that an immediate intuitive character belongs to the antaḥkaraṇa,, for the antaḥkaraṇa itself being non-intuitive and non-self-illuminating by nature, its modifications also cannot be intuitive or self-illuminating. The mere fact that antaḥkaraṇa has fire elements in it does not make it self-illuminating ; for then many objects which are supposed to be made up of fire elements would be self-illuminating. Again, it is wrong to suppose that the manifestation of consciousness must be nontransitive by nature; for, though one may speak of the illumination of an object in non-transitive terms, one speaks of knowing in transitive terms. If it is not admitted that the transitive or intransitive character of an action is often of a verbal nature, it would be difficult for a Śaṅkarite to speak of a modification of antaḥkaraṇa (which is non-transitive) as equivalent to knowing an object. Moreover, if it is held that it is only the pure consciousness outside the vṛtti that is illuminated, then the past, wherein there is no pure consciousness manifesting it, could not reveal itself to us; so it is wholly unwarrantable to conceive of an intermediatory means in order to explain the relation between knowledge and its objects. Even if it be admitted that the antaḥkaraṇa goes outside the body, yet it is difficult to conceive of the nature of pure consciousness, which is supposed to illumine the object, either as consciousness reflected in the vṛtti of antaḥkaraṇa (as stated by Bhāratī-tīrtha), or as the pure consciousness which is the ground of the appearance of objects manifested by the consciousness reflected in the antaḥka-raṇa-vṛtti (vṛtti-pratibimbita-caitanyābhivyaktaṃ viṣayādhiṣṭhānaṃ caitanyam), as supposed by Sureśvara.

The question is whether consciousness as manifested in the antaḥkaraṇa illumines the object or whether the ground-consciousness underlying the objects manifests the objects. Neither of these views is tenable. The first view is not possible because, the consciousness reflected in the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti being false, it is not possible that the world-objects should be imposed on such an illusory entity; the second view is also impossible; for, if the consciousness reflected in the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti be supposed to remove the veil of the object, it may as well be held to manifest it, and it is, therefore, unnecessary to suppose that the ground-consciousness illumines the object.

Further, it cannot be admitted that the vṛtti assumes the form of the gross physical objects; for then it would be as gross and material as the objects are. Moreover, the existence of an object assumes therewith the existence of the negation of other entities; and, if the antaḥkaraṇa is supposed to take the form of an object, it must also assume the negative forms; it is, however, difficult to conceive how the antaḥkaraṇa can be supposed to assume the positive and the negative forms at one and the same time. Again, following the same supposition in the case of the final intuition, it has to be assumed that the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti assumes the form of Brahman; this, however, has no form, so that the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti must be supposed to be here both formless and endowed with form —which is absurd.

Moreover, it is not legitimate to suppose that it is the consciousness underlying the finite self (jīva-caitanya) that reveals the object; for, on the supposition that the objects are illusory superpositions on pure consciousness or on the consciousness underlying the objects, the Śaṅkarite theory fails; for in this case the perceiving consciousness, being consciousness underlying th e jīva, would be different either from pure consciousness or from the consciousness underlying the objects, which is supposed to be the basis of the illusory creations. The jīva itself, moreover, cannot be regarded as the basis of the creation; for it is itself an illusory creation. For the same reasons also it cannot be asserted that it is the Brahma-consciousness that illumines the object. Thus the Brahman, being itself as underlying the objects, an illusory creation, cannot be regarded as also illuminating the objects. The pure consciousness underlying the objects, being itself veiled by ajñāna, should not also be able to manifest itself; and thus all knowledge of objects would be impossible. If it is argued that, though the pure consciousness is veiled, yet the consciousness limited by the object-form may be manifested by the vṛtti of the antaḥkaraṇa, that is not correct: for it cannot be admitted that the consciousness limited by the object-forms is itself the basis of those object-forms, since that would amount to an admission that the object-forms are their own basis, which would be a fallacy of self-dependence (ātmāśraya), and the original contention of the Śaṅkarites that the objects are illusorily imposed upon pure consciousness fails. Moreover, if the process of knowledge is admitted to be such that the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti manifests the pure consciousness as limited by objective forms, then the case of final intuition (Brahman-knowledge), where objective characteristics are absent, would be inexplicable. Again, the Śaṅkarites hold that in deep dreamless sleep the antaḥkaraṇa is dissolved; and, if that were so, the jīva, which is the consciousness limited by a particular antaḥkaraṇa, would be renewed after each dreamless sleep, and thus the fruits of the karma of one jīva ought not to be reaped by the new jīva. The view that the pure consciousness is reflected through a vṛtti is also inadmissible; for reflections can happen only between two visible objects. The view that consciousness is transformed into a particular state is also inadmissible, since by hypothesis consciousness is unchangeable. Consciousness being entirely unsupported by anything else (anāśritatvāt), the analogy of the relation of universal and particular as explaining the conditioning of consciousness is also inadmissible. Moreover, if the consciousness underlying the jīva be regarded as manifesting the objects, then, since such a consciousness always exists in an unveiled form, there is no meaning in saying that in effecting its spontaneous manifestation the operation of the vṛtti is necessary.

Also the pure consciousness cannot be regarded as being limited by the vṛtti just as limitless space is supposed to be limited by a jug; for the pure consciousness is all-pervading and, as such, it must also pervade the vṛtti and cannot therefore be regarded as being inside it. Neither can the pure consciousness be compared with the ray of light manifesting colour; for the ray of light does so only with the help of accessories, whereas pure consciousness manifests things by itself. Again, if things are manifested spontaneously by the unveiled consciousness (anāvṛta-cit yadi viṣaya-prakāśikā), then, since such a consciousness is in touch with objects not only so far as their forms and colours are concerned, but also with their other characteristics such as weight, these also ought to be illuminated along with qualities such as colour, etc. Moreover, the relation of consciousness to the object cannot be of the nature of eternal contact, but must be of the nature of illusory imposition upon it (consciousness); this being so, the relation of consciousness to the object is already there, since all things in the world are imposed upon consciousness. The supposition therefore of a vṛtti as an intermediary is quite uncalled for[9].

Again, if the Brahma-consciousness stands in need of the help of a vṛtti in order to manifest things, it has no claim to be called by itself omniscient. If it is suggested that Brahman, being the material cause of all, is competent without the help of any conditions to illuminate the world, which is identical with it, then the reply will be that, if Brahman be regarded as transforming itself under the limitation of objective forms, then such a transformation of the limited Brahman does not justify the accepted thesis of the Śaṅkarites that all objects are illusorily imposed on the pure consciousness[10]. It is also not possible to say that it is the pure consciousness, unconditioned by any object-form, that forms the ground cause; for, if that were so, it could not be called omniscient, since omniscience can be affirmed only in relation to object-forms[11].

The supposition that the conception of vṛtti is necessary for the removal of the veil is also wrong; for such a veil must attach either to the pure consciousness or to limited consciousness. The former is impossible, since the pure consciousness which forms the basis of all appearances is the intuitive perceiver of all ajñāna and its forms, and as such, being self-luminous, cannot have any veil attached to it. The second also is impossible; for without the help of the pure consciousness ajñāna itself would be without any locus standi, and without the ajñāna there would be no limited consciousness and no veil of ajñāna. Again, admitting for argument’s sake that there is a veil of ajñāna over the objects, the conception of its removal by a vṛtti is impossible; for, if the ajñāna belongs to the individual perceiver, then, if it is destroyed for one individual, it remains the same for another; if it belongs to the object, as is supposed, then, when it is removed by the vṛtti of one individual, the object should be manifest to other individuals, so that, when a person sees an object, that object should be visible also to other persons at other places.

Again, is the ajñāna to be accepted as one, according to the author of the Vivaraṇa, or as many, according to the author of the Iṣṭa-siddhi ? In the former case, when by one right knowledge ajñāna is removed, there ought to be immediate emancipation. If the ajñāna is not removed, then the silver-appearance of conch-shell should not have been contradicted, and the form of conch-shell could not have been manifested. It cannot be said that in the case of the perception of conch-shell through negation of the silver-appearance the ajñāna is merely dissolved (just as a jug is reduced to dust by the stroke of a club, but not destroyed), which can only be done through Brahma-knowledge; for ajñāna is directly opposed to knowledge, and without destroying ignorance knowledge cannot show itself. If the ajñāna were not removed by the knowledge of the conch-shell, then the manifested consciousness would have no relation to the conch-shell, and it could not have been manifested, and in spite of the contradiction the illusion would have remained. Nor can it be suggested that, though ajñāna may be removed in some parts, it might continue in others; for ajñāna and consciousness are both partless. Nor can it be suggested that, just as by the influence of certain precious stones the burning capacity of fire can be stopped, so by the knowledge of the conch-shell the veiling power of avidyā is suspended; for the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti in the form of the conch-shell, being produced through the agency of the visual organ and other accessories, cannot be in touch with the pure self, which is devoid of all characteristics, and therefore it cannot remove the veiling power. If it is suggested that the vṛtti of the form of the conch-shell is in association with the pure consciousness, under the limited form of the conch-shell, and can therefore remove the veil, then the underlying pure consciousness ought to be directly intuited. Avidyā cannot have the material objects as its support; for they are themselves the product of avidyā. So the veiling power of avidyā also can have no reference to the material objects, since a veil can hide only what is luminous; the material objects, not being luminous, cannot be veiled. So there is no meaning in saying that the veil of the objects is removed in perception.

If, again, it is said that the veil has reference to the pure self, as modified by the material characteristic, and not to the material characteristic, then with the knowledge of the conch-shell the veil of the conch-shell underlying it might be removed, and this ought to bring immediate emancipation. If it is suggested that the ajñāna which forms the substratum of the illusory silver is but a special modified state of a root ajñāna which forms the material of the conch-shell, then that virtually amounts to an assumption of many ajñānas independent of one another; and, that being so, it would not necessarily follow that the knowledge of the conch-shell could dispel the illusory appearance of silver.

On the view of the author of the Iṣṭa-siddhi, if the existence of many ajñānas is admitted, then the question is whether by the operation of one vṛtti only one ajñāna is removed or all the ajñānas. In the former view the conch-shell could never remain unmanifested even in the case of illusion, since vṛtti manifesting the illusory silver would also manifest silver; and on the second view, there being infinite ajñānas, which cannot all be removed, conch-shell would never be manifested. This criticism would apply equally well to the former view that there is only one root ajñāna of which there are many states. Again, it is difficult to understand how the conch-shell, which has a beginning in time, can be associated with beginningless avidyā. Further, if it is urged in reply that the beginningless avidyā limits the beginningless pure consciousness and that later, when other objects are produced, the ajñāna appears as the veil of pure consciousness limited by those object-forms, the reply is that, if the veil associated with pure consciousness is the same as the veil associated with consciousness in limited object-forms, then, with the knowledge of any of those objects, the veil of pure consciousness would be removed, and immediate emancipation would result.

Rāmādvaya, the author of the Vedānta-kaumudī, suggests that, just as there is an infinite number of negations-precedent-to-production (prāg-abhāva), and yet, when anything is produced, only one of them is destroyed, or just as, when there is a thunderbolt falling upon a crowd, only one of them may be killed, while others may only disperse, so with the rise of knowledge only one ajñāna may be removed, while others may persist. Vyāsa-tīrtha replies that the analogy is false, since (according to him) negation-precedent-to-knowledge is not a veil but merely the absence of the causes of knowledge. Knowledge, moreover, is not the cause of the cessation of such negation, but behaves as an independent entity, so that one knowledge may produce its effects, while the negation-precedent-to-production of other cognitions of its class may remain. The presence of a cause produces the effect, but it does not involve the condition that for the production of the effect the negations-precedent-to-production of all causes of the same class should be removed. In the case of the Vedāntists, since the vṛtti removes the veil of one ajñāna, there may still be other ajñāna-ve ils to suspend the operation of cognition. On the view that darkness is absence of light, darkness is not a veil of objects, but merely absence of the conditions of light; nor is light supposed in its operation to destroy darkness, but directly to produce illumination. Darkness, also, should not be regarded as negation of individual light, but as absence of light in general; so that, even if there is one light, there is no darkness. The ajñānas also possess no constituent material forms; so the analogy of scattering crowds of men cannot apply to them.

Madhusūdana, in replying to the above criticism of Vyāsa-tīrtha, says that the contention of the latter that whatever is imaginary or mental (kalpita) necessarily has no other being than the percipi (pratīti-mātra-śarīratva), is wrong; for in the instance under discussion, when logic shows that the relation between the perceiver and the perceived is so absurd that the perceived entities cannot be anything more than illusory, perception shows that the perceived entities do persist even when they are not perceived. The persistence of the perceived entities is well attested by experience and cannot be regarded as imaginary, like the illusory perception of silver.

But yet it may be objected that, just as in mediate knowledge (parokṣa) no necessity is felt for admitting a vṛtti, so in immediate perception also there may be an illumination of the object without it. The reply to this is that in mediate knowledge also a mediate (parokṣa) vṛtti is admitted; for there also the illumination takes place by the manifestation of consciousness through a mediate vṛtti[12]. It is wrong to contend that, since the pure consciousness is the principle of manifestation in both cases, mediate cognition should, on our theory, be expected to behave as immediate; for in the case of immediate perception there is a direct identity of consciousness and the object through the vṛtti, and therefore the object behaves as the object of cognition in that specific direct relation. The mediacy or immediacy of cognition depends on the specific nature of the object, and not on the specific modifications of the vṛtti in the two cases, nor can the two be regarded as two different classes of cognition; for on such a supposition such cognition or recognition as “this is the man I knew,” where there seems to be a mixture of mediate and immediate cognition, will involve a joint operation of two distinct classes of cognition in the same knowledge; which is obviously absurd.

It must be borne in mind that the vṛtti by itself is merely an operation which cannot constitute conscious illumination; the vṛtti can lead to an illumination only through its association with pure consciousness, and not by itself alone. It is wrong to suppose that there is no difference between a transitive (as when one says “I know a jug”) and an intransitive (as when one says “the jug has come into consciousness”) operation; for the distinction is well attested in experience as involving a direct and an indirect method. The same vṛtti (operation), however, cannot be regarded as both transitive and intransitive at the same time, though with different and indifferent circumstances an operation may be both transitive and intransitive. Such instances of experience as “the past is revealed” are to be explained on the supposition that the pure consciousness is revealed through a particular modification of the vṛtti as past.

Again, it is contended by the opponents that, though it may be admitted that pure consciousness manifests the object, yet there is no necessity why the antaḥkaraṇa should be supposed to go out of the body and be in contact with the object of perception. The difference between mediate and immediate knowledge may well be accounted for on the supposition of different kinds of mediate or immediate operation through which the consciousness is revealed in each case[13]: for, just as in mediate knowledge there is no actual contact of the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti with the object, but yet the cognition is possible through the presence of adequate causes which generate such cognition, the same explanation may be adduced in explaining immediate cognition of objects. To this the reply is that the Śaṅkarites do not consider that the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti must assume the form of the object, but they certainly do consider it to be indispensable. There should be in immediate cognition an actual contact between the object and the vṛtti. If the vṛtti so acts in any particular case, that does not constitute its essential function in conditioning the awareness. Thus the function of the ray of light in illumination is that it dispels darkness; that it also spreads over the object is only an accidental fact[14]. The mere fact that a vṛtti may be in contact with an object does not necessarily mean that it assumes its form; thus, though the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti may travel up to the pole star or be in contact with objects having an atomic structure, that does not imply that all objects in the space intermediate between the eye and the star or the atoms should be perceived; such perceptions are baffled through the absence of such accessory causes as might have caused the vṛtti to assume their form. In the case of tactile perception the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti comes into contact with the object through the tactile organ; there is no restriction such that the antaḥkaraṇa should come out only through the eye and not through other organs[15]. The contention that in the case of other mental operations, such as desire or aversion, there is no assumption of the migration of antaḥkaraṇa outside is pointless; for in these cases there is not a removal of a veil as in the case of cognition.

Madhusūdana urges that the basis or the ground-consciousness (adhiṣṭḥāna-caitanya) which illumines everything is directly connected with the objects through illusory imposition. This self-illuminating entity can, indeed, manifest all that is associated with it; but, as it is, it is in an unmanifested state, like a veiled lamp, and the operation of the vṛtti is regarded as necessary for its manifestation. In the case of mediate knowledge this unmanifested consciousness manifests itself in the form of the vṛtti ; and in the case of immediate perception through the contact of the vṛtti the veil of ajñāna is removed, since the vṛtti extends so as to reach the objects.  So in the case of mediate cognition the knowledge is of a mental state, and not of an object, whereas in immediate perception the illumination is of the object through the association of the vṛtti. In the case of mediate cognition there is no way by which the antaḥkaraṇa could go out.

To the objection of Vyāsa-tīrtha that it is absurd to think of the antaḥkaraṇa as taking the shape of gross physical objects, Madhusūdana’s reply is that “taking the shape of an object” only means the capacity of the vṛtti to remove the veil of ajñāna which had stood in the way of the affirmation of the existence of the object[16]; thus the functioning of the vṛtti consists only in the removal of the veil of ajñāna.

To the objection that, if the pure consciousness is veiled by ajñāna, no cognition is possible, Madhusūdana’s reply is that, though ajñāna in its extensive entirety may remain intact, yet a part of it may be removed by coming into association with the vṛtti, and thus the object may be revealed.

To the objection of Vyāsa-tīrtha that in the last emancipatory intuition one would expect that the antaḥkaraṇa should have the form of Brahman as object (which is absurd, Brahman being formless), the reply of Madhusūdana is that the Brahman which forms the object of the last immediate intuition, being absolutely unconditioned, does not shine as associated with any particular form. The manifestation of objects in worldly experience is always with specific condition, whereas, the object of this last manifestation being without any condition, the absence of any form is no objection to it; its cognition results in the absolute cessation of all ajñāna and thus produces emancipation. Again, the objection that, if during dreamless sleep the antaḥkaraṇa is dissolved, then on reawakening there will be new antaḥkaraṇa, and thus the deeds associated with the former antaḥkaraṇa will have no continuity with the new antaḥkaraṇa, is invalid; for even in deep sleep the causal antaḥkaraṇa remains, what is dissolved being the manifested state of the antaḥkaraṇa.

Again, the objection that there cannot be any reflection in the antaḥkaraṇa because it has neither manifest colour (udbhūtā - rūpatvāt) nor visibility, is invalid; for what may be regarded as the necessary qualification for reflection is not visibility or the possession of colour, but transparence, and such transparency is admitted to belong to antaḥkaraṇa or its vṛtti. The ajñāna, which is regarded as constituted of the three guṇas, is also considered to be capable of reflection by virtue of the fact that it contains sattva as one of its elements.

The objection that, as a ray of light illuminates not only colours, but also other entities, so the pure consciousness also should illuminate not only the colour of the object, but also its other properties, such as weight, is invalid; for the pure consciousness is not in touch with any quality or characteristic, and therefore can illuminate only those characters which are presented to it through the transparent vṛtti; this is why, in the case of the illusion “this is silver,” the vṛtti implied in the cognition “this” does not manifest the illusory silver, for the manifestation of which a separate vṛtti of avidyā has to be admitted. The antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti, however, can directly receive the reflection of the pure consciousness and therefore does not require for such a reflection a further vṛtti, and there is accordingly no vicious infinite. The function of the vṛtti is to manifest the identity of the jīva-consciousness and the consciousness underlying the object, without which the relation between the knower and the known as “this is known by me” could not be manifested[17].

Though Brahman is absolutely untouched by anything, yet, since all things are illusorily imposed upon it, it can manifest them all without the aid of māyā ; this justifies the omniscience of Brahman, and the criticism that the pure Brahman cannot be omniscient is invalid.

Regarding the destruction of the veil of ajñāna it may be pointed out that the veiling power of the ajñāna pertaining to one individual is destroyed by the functioning of his vṛtti, so that he alone can perceive, and not any other individual in whose case the veiling power has not been destroyed. The difference between the veiling power and darkness is this: the veiling power has relation both to the object and to the perceiver, whereas darkness relates only to the object; so that, when darkness is destroyed, all can see, but not so in the case of the veiling power. This refutes the criticism that, if there is one ajñāna, the perception of one object ought to lead to immediate emancipation.

The criticism that, since knowledge must necessarily dispel ignorance, the illusion of silver cannot be destroyed, is invalid; for knowledge destroys ignorance only in the last instance, i.e., only before emancipation. The knowledge of the conch-shell cannot destroy the supreme veiling power of the root ajñāna covering the unlimited consciousness, but can only remove the relative ajñāna covering the limited consciousness, thereby opening up the consciousness underlying the limited object-forms, and so producing the contradiction of the illusory silver and the intuition of the conch-shell.

The objection that ajñāna cannot veil the material objects, because they are not luminous, is quite beside the point; for the Śaṅkarite theory does not assume that the ajñāna veils the material objects. Their view is that the veiling relates to the pure consciousness on which all material objects are illusorily imposed. The ajñāna veiling the underlying consciousness veils also the material objects the existence of which depends on it, being an imposition upon it. When by the vṛtti the ground-consciousness of an object is manifested, the result is not the manifestation of the pure consciousness as such, but of the limited consciousness only so far as concerns its limited form with which the vṛtti is in contact. Thus the objection that either the removal of the veil is unnecessary or that in any particular cognition it necessarily implies emancipation is invalid.

Again, the states of the ignorance must be regarded as being identical with it, and the knowledge that is opposed to ignorance is also opposed to them; so the states of ajñāna can very well be directly removed by knowledge. The objection that there are many ajñānas, and that even if one ajñāna is removed there would be others obstructing the manifestation of cognition, is invalid; for, when one ajñāna is removed, its very removal is an obstruction to the spread of other ajñānas to veil the manifestation, so that, so long as the first ajñāna remains removed, the manifestation of the object continues.

An objection is put forward that, the consciousness being itself partless, there cannot be any manifestation of it in part, with reference to certain object-forms only. If it is held that such conditioned manifestation is possible with reference to the conditioning fact of object-forms, then even previous to the existence of definite object-forms there cannot be any ajñāna, or, in other words, ajñāna cannot exist as a pre-condition, it being only coterminous with definite object-forms. To this Madhusūdana’s reply is that the object-forms, being imposition upon pure consciousness and the latter being their ground, the manifestation of consciousness with reference to any object-form depends upon the removal of ajñāna with reference to the illusory creation of that object-form imposed upon the ground-consciousness. The ajñāna itself does not constitute the object-form; therefore the removal of ajñāna has reference not to object-forms as separate and independent entities, but only to the creation of such object-forms imposed upon the groundconsciousness. Thus there is no objection; the existence of ajñāna as a pre-condition is such that, when along with itself object-forms are created, the veil on these is removed by the vṛtti contact leading to their cognition. The position is that, though the groundconsciousness reveals the object-forms imposed upon it, yet such a revelation takes place only with reference to that perceiver whose vṛtti comes into contact with the object, and not with reference to others. The condition of the revelation is that the consciousness underlying the perceiver, the vṛtti and the object-form becomes identical, as it were, through the imposition of the vṛtti upon the object. This tripartite union being a condition of the manifestation of an object to a particular perceiver, the object, revealed by the ground-consciousness underlying it, is not manifested to other perceivers.

Footnotes and references:


nāpi sat-trayānugataṃ sat-dvayānugataṃ vā satva-sāmānyaṃ tantraṃ.
p. 174.


Nyāyāmṛta, p. 191.


pramita-vastvanusāreṇa hi prakriyā kalpyā na tu sva-kalpita-prakriyānurodhena pramita-tyāgaḥ.
      Ibid. p. 193.


yādṛśaṃ viṣayatvaṃ te vṛttiṃ prati cidātmanaḥ
tādṛśaṃ viṣayatvaṃ me dṛśyasyāpi dṛśaṃ prati.
p. 205 a.


tava sa ākāraḥ sad-vilakṣaṇaḥ mama tu sanniti anirucyamāno’pi sa tava yena mānena aprātibhāsikaḥ tenaiva mama tātviko’stu.
p. 205.


kīdṛk tat pratyag iti cet tādṛśī dṛg iti dvayaṃ
yatra na prasaraty etat pratyag ity-avadhāraya
iti brahmaṇy api durnirūpatvasya uktatvāc ca.

      Ibid. p. 206 a.


tasmāt pramitasya ittham iti nirvaktum
aśakyatvaṃ pratipuruṣa-mukhaṃ spaṣṭā-vādhita
-dṛṣṭidṛṣṭam vilakṣaṇa-saṃsthāna-viśeṣasya vā
sattve’py adbhutatvād eva yuktam.
p. 206.


tasmāt nirvacanāyogyasyāpi viśvasya ikṣukṣīrādi-mādhuryavad brahmavac ca prāmāṇikatvād eva sattva-siddheḥ.
p. 206.


cito viṣayoparāgas tāvat saṃyogādi-rūpo nāsty eva. tasya dṛśyatvā-prayo-jakatvāt kintu tatrāḍhyastatva-rūpa eveti vācyam. sa ca vṛttyapekṣayā pūrvam apy astīti kiṃ cito viṣayoparāgārthayā vṛttyā.
Śrīnivāsa’s Nyāyāmṛta-prakāśa on the Nyāyāmṛta, p. 226.


viśiṣṭa-niṣṭhena pariṇāmitva-rūpeṇa sarvopādānatvena viśiṣṭa-brahmaṇaḥ sarvajñatve tasya kalpitatvenādhiṣṭhānatvāyogena tatra jagad-adhyāsāsaṃbhavāt ādhyāsika-saṃbandhena prakāśata iti bhavad-abhimataniyamabhaṅga-prasaṅgaḥ.
p. 227a.


nāpi śuddha-niṣṭḥam adhiṣṭḥānatvaṃ sārvajñyāder viśiṣṭa-niṣṭḥatvāt.
p. 226 a.


parokṣasthale’pi parokṣa-vṛtty-uparakta-caitanyasya iva prakāśakatvāt.
p. 480.


parokṣa-vailakṣaṇyāya viṣayasyābhivyaktāparokṣa-cid-uparōga eva vakta-vyaḥ.
p. 482.


viṣayeṣu abhivyakta-cid-uparāge na tad-ākāratva-mātraṃ tantram.
p. 482.


na ca spārśana-pratyakṣe cakṣurādivat niyata-golakadvārā-bhāvena antaḥkaraṇa-nirgaty-ayogād āvaraṇābhibhavānupapattir iti vācyam. sarvatra tat-tad-indriyādhiṣṭḥānasyaiva dvāratva-saṃbhavāt.
p. 482.


astitvādi tad-viṣayaka-vyavahāra-pratibandhaka-jñāna-nivartana-yogy-atvasya tad-ākāratva-rūpatvāt.
p. 483.


jīvacaitanyasyādhiṣṭḥāna-caitanyasya vābheḍābhivyaktārtkatvād vṛtteḥ. anyathā mayedaṃ viditam iti saṃbandhāvabhāso na syāt.
p. 485.

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