Preceptors of Advaita

by T. M. P. Mahadevan | 1968 | 179,170 words | ISBN-13: 9788185208510

The Advaita tradition traces its inspiration to God Himself — as Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or as Sadā-Śiva. The supreme Lord revealed the wisdom of Advaita to Brahma, the Creator, who in turn imparted it to Vasiṣṭha....

18. Prakāśātman



Dr. Bratindra Kumar Sengupta

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has further to be dependent on an ontological approach and, therefore, the two schools have to face each other. But the second, and more important, question will be about the real crux in the matter of the analysis and approach, which we find in the Reality of all existence,—apart from its epistemological analysis.

Prakāśātman wrote the famous sub-commentary Pāñchapādikāvivaraṇa, on the Pañchapādikā, a commentary by Padmapāda on the Śāñrakamīmāṃsābhāṣya of Śaṅkara. Coming to the Pañchapādikāvivaraṇa of Prakāśātman, we land ourselves in the epoch-making period of this school, and henceforward move towards a history of dialectical literature of Advaita philosophy, which bases itself solidly upon the conclusions arrived at in clear terms by Prakāśātman. From the colophon of his work we know that his real name is Svaprakāśānubhava-bhagavat, or simply Svaprakāśānubhava, and he was the disciple of Ananyānubhava.[1] But the more commonly known name of the author of the Pañchapādikāvivaraṇa is Prakāśātmayati or Prakāśātman.[2]

The Advaitist stand-point regarding the awareness of the object is distinct from the view of Mahāyāna Buddhism, specially in the Yogāchāra School. When two objects are perceived, they are perceived as distinct from each other where the distinctness is perceptible. Supposing, according to the Mahāyānist, we perceive a ‘nīla’ (blue) and ‘ pīta ’ (yellow) substance (which is itself an object of perception as this or that). The Yogāchāra view will lead us to the unity of consciousness and the substance. But we should also remember that as ‘nīla’ is distinct from another as ‘pīta’, and the distinctness ought to be perceived, though that is somewhat inexplicable in the subjective idealism of this particular school. Still the distinctness is also one with consciousness and hence cannot be evaded. Therefore, though unwarranted, this position has to be willy-nilly accepted by the Yogāchāra idealist, In the Advaitist School however, as Padmapāda, and following him, Prakāśātman very clearly bring out, that there is no necessity of the distinctness in the direct awareness of this or that object. Even in the awareness of a distinctness regarding this object or that object the awareness remains the same in regard to the directness. It


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subjective consciousness of the second (samanantara) stage, the objection will be that the resultant consciousness will be of the nature of a whole, which is again a distinct consciousness, and hence the relation will not be adhering lo that consciousness which the subject will have for itself. This unpracticable relation of the subjective consciousness, according to the Buddhists, will never have been achieved even on their own showing. If the knowing activity is to be ‘a relation’, then it should be shown that the activity involved cannot pertain to the momentary pieces of consciousness. Therefore, the subjective consciousness should depend on a permanent object of experience as ‘ nīla ’ to be the permanent seat of that knowing activity. But when an activity engenders the direct awareness of ‘nīla,’, etc., there is no meaning in the permanence of the consciousness regarding the object, i.e. the permanent object of experience on which the consciousness is based. Every knowing activity should, therefore, pertain to the present consciousness as distinct from the non-present one, according to this Buddhist view. That is to say, every object should be bound to the limits of the present consciousness as a distinct individuality (ahamiti samvidaḥ pratikṣaṇam svalakṣaṇabhedena bhāvyam) as Padmapāda analyses. But that is going too far into the epistemology of perception where the actual experience is split into logical bits. Even if it is argued that all these logical bits of experience are very much identical, and hence no distinction is apparent amongst them, still a greater epistemological difficulty will arise. All our experience will have no footing if the real distinction of the actual experiences, one from the other, is not known and the stream becomes a bundle of disjoined moments of a single experience. The idea of similitude is again unwarranted and unmeaning when there is real unity of consciousness. Unless the idea of unity be false, the idea of similitude cannot arise at all. But the question of the falsity of unity of consciousness is forthright rejected by the Advaitist. Still the Mahayānist may argue that any fallacy applicable to his theory may well apply to the Advaitist. For example, the fallacy of mutual dependence (itaretarāśrayatva), is levelled against the Yogāchāra idealist. For, according to his theory, there is the similitude possible due to the falsity of the unity (of consciousness). Difference amongst bits of consciousness is, according to his School, nothing but the nature of consciousness (saṃvitsvarūpa), as the difference cannot


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thesis. Unreality is ungrounded as a false character imposed on consciousness, and the idea of similitude is born out of this false knowledge. Hence it is equally ungrounded. There is no question of positing a similitude amongst various bits of knowledge when this itself is so ungrounded. There is only unity and no heterisation of experience. Nor can the idea of similitude be established by inference, based on the experience of destruction of the succeeding bit of experience in one single knowledge, as the Buddhist upholds. The penultimate bit of experience, say, of a jar, is no more existent when the knowledge of the object is ultimately destroyed. Thus all the preceding bits of experience are inferred to be non-existent at the successive stages of their destruction. Hence, the Buddhist dialectician would say that all existent beings are but momentary (yat sat tat kṣaṇikam) based on the interential proof as his argument is. But against this argumentation, the Advaitist equally advances the opposite inference to prove that existence does not posit momentariness, but continuity of unity. The Buddhist cannot also argue that as our experience of the ultimate moments is necessarily of destruction (i.e. negation), we cannot posit any existence with regard to the same. For, the opposite argument from the Advaitist stand-point would again equally apply that our experience of re-perception or re-cognition (pratyabhijñā) of the previous moments would posit their continuity of unity, and not successive destruction or negation. In fact, re-cognition (pratyabhijñā) has been accepted as a proof by the Advaitist, contra the Buddhist and, to some extent, contra the Prābhākara Mīmāṃsaka as regards the status of the self in such experience.

The arguments set forth here from the Buddhist standpoint regarding the momentariness of the existent entity, which have been controverted by the Advaitist, are very clearly set forth in the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha by Mādhavāchārya (circa 14th Cent. A.D.) Mādhavāchārya has detailed all these arguments of the Buddhist hypothesis that whatever is existent is momentary and that existence (sattva) means potentiality of action (artha-kṛyākāritva). All these arguments of the Buddhist dialecticians have been analysed by Mādhavāchārya in his work on the chapter Saugatadarśana. Mādhavāchārya has quoted from Jñānaśrī, a Buddhist philosopher (circa, 9th Cent. A.D.), who flourished before Udayana, and who in his Kṣaṇabhaṅgasiddhi has enumerated all these arguments of the Buddhist dialectics to establish momentariness by existence qua potentiality for action.

The Buddhist theory of existence qua potentiality for action is, however, open to serious objections. This potentiality for action may be said to be the origination of the knowledge of itself as the object (svaviṣayajñānajanana) but that is true of external object only- For, the internal bits of consciousness are never the objects of knowledge of themselves, as they are never objectified by the knowledge-process being unique (svalakṣaṇa) as self-revealed in their own nature. Objectivity would make for this other-revealedness. Thus the unique characteristic of the external object (viṣayasvalakṣaṇa) and the unique characteristic of the internal consciousness (samvitsvalakṣaṇa) are totally different in nature. Hence according to the Buddhists’ own acceptance of potentiality for action, it would apply to only the external objects, which alone would be existent. Nor can it be argued by the Buddhists that the internal bits of consciousness also are objectified by the consciousness of a different subject (person as perceiver). For, such kind of objectivity will attach an indirect character to the perceived consciousness, which is undesirable epistemologically, if not also ontologically. The Buddhist dialectician would not condescend to accept an indirect or inferred character in the consciousness which is only perceptible, i.e. self-revelatory. Even in an external perception of an object there is the possibility of inference through an indirect method of positing arthakṛyākaritva, which is a unique characteristic (svalakṣaṇa) in that case. But in the case of the unique characteristic (svalakṣaṇa) of consciousness it is only direct, being non-objectified and self-revelatory.

Footnotes and references:


Pañchapādikāvivaran Introductory verse 6


Ibid., 7.

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