Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1 by Surendranath Dasgupta

Part 12 out of 13

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

[Footnote 1: S'a@nkara's commentary, I.i. 2. See also Deussen's _System of
the Vedanta_.]

439

There is no difference between the cause and the effect, and the
effect is but an illusory imposition on the cause--a mere illusion
of name and form. We may mould clay into plates and jugs and
call them by so many different names, but it cannot be admitted
that they are by that fact anything more than clay; their transformations
as plates and jugs are only appearances of name and
form (_namarupa_). This world, inasmuch as it is but an effect
imposed upon the Brahman, is only phenomenally existent
(_vyavaharika_) as mere objects of name and form (_namarupa_), but
the cause, the Brahman, is alone the true reality(_paramarthika_)
[Footnote ref 1].

The main idea of the Vedanta philosophy.

The main idea of the advaita (non-dualistic) Vedanta philosophy
as taught by the @S'a@kara school is this, that the ultimate
and absolute truth is the self, which is one, though appearing as
many in different individuals. The world also as apart from
us the individuals has no reality and has no other truth
to show than this self. All other events, mental or physical,
are but passing appearances, while the only absolute and unchangeable
truth underlying them all is the self. While other
systems investigated the pramanas only to examine how far
they could determine the objective truth of things or our attitude
in practical life towards them, Vedanta sought to reach
beneath the surface of appearances, and enquired after the final
and ultimate truth underlying the microcosm and the macrocosm,
the subject and the object. The famous instruction of
@S'vetaketu, the most important Vedanta text (mahavakya) says,
"That art thou, O S'vetaketu." This comprehension of my self
as the ultimate truth is the highest knowledge, for when this
knowledge is once produced, our cognition of world-appearances
will automatically cease. Unless the mind is chastened and purged
of all passions and desires, the soul cannot comprehend this
truth; but when this is once done, and the soul is anxious for
salvation by a knowledge of the highest truth, the preceptor
instructs him, "That art thou." At once he becomes the truth
itself, which is at once identical with pure bliss and pure intelligence;
all ordinary notions and cognitions of diversity and of the

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: All that is important in S'a@nkara's commentary of the
_Brahma-sutras_ has been excellently systematized by Deussen in his
_System of the Vedanta_; it is therefore unnecessary for me to give any
long account of this part. Most of what follows has been taken from
the writings of his followers.]

440

many cease; there is no duality, no notion of mine and thane; the
vast illusion of this world process is extinct in him, and he shines
forth as the one, the truth, the Brahman. All Hindu systems believed
that when man attained salvation, he became divested of all
world-consciousness, or of all consciousness of himself and his interests,
and was thus reduced to his own original purity untouched
by all sensations, perceptions, feelings and willing, but there the
idea was this that when man had no bonds of karma and no desire
and attachment with the world and had known the nature of
his self as absolutely free and unattached to the world and his
own psychosis, he became emancipated from the world and all
his connections with the world ceased, though the world continued
as ever the same with others. The external world was a reality
with them; the unreality or illusion consisted in want of true
knowledge about the real nature of the self, on account of which
the self foolishly identified itself with world-experiences, worldly
joys and world-events, and performed good and bad works accordingly.
The force of accumulated karmas led him to undergo
the experiences brought about by them. While reaping the fruits
of past karmas he, as ignorant as ever of his own self, worked
again under the delusion of a false relationship between himself
and the world, and so the world process ran on. Mufti (salvation)
meant the dissociation of the self from the subjective psychosis
and the world. This condition of the pure state of self was regarded
as an unconscious one by Nyaya-Vais'e@sika and Mima@msa,
and as a state of pure intelligence by Sa@mkhya and Yoga. But
with Vedanta the case is different, for it held that the world as
such has no real existence at all, but is only an illusory imagination
which lasts till the moment when true knowledge is acquired.
As soon as we come to know that the one truth is the self, the
Brahman, all our illusory perceptions representing the world as
a field of experience cease. This happens not because the connections
of the self with the world cease, but because the appearance
of the world process does not represent the ultimate and
highest truth about it. All our notions about the abiding
diversified world (lasting though they may be from beginningless
time) are false in the sense that they do not represent the real
truth about it. We not only do not know what we ourselves
really are, but do not also know what the world about us is.
We take our ordinary experiences of the world as representing

441

it correctly, and proceed on our career of daily activity. It is no
doubt true that these experiences show us an established order
having its own laws, but this does not represent the real truth.
They are true only in a relative sense, so long as they appear to
be so; for the moment the real truth about them and the self is
comprehended all world-appearances become unreal, and that one
truth, the Brahman, pure being, bliss, intelligence, shines forth as
the absolute--the only truth in world and man. The world-appearance
as experienced by us is thus often likened to the
illusory perception of silver in a conch-shell; for the moment
the perception appears to be true and the man runs to pick
it up, as if the conch-shell were a real piece of silver; but
as soon as he finds out the truth that this is only a piece of
conch-shell, he turns his back on it and is no longer deluded
by the appearance or again attracted towards it. The illusion
of silver is inexplicable in itself, for it was true for all purposes
so long as it persisted, but when true knowledge was
acquired, it forthwith vanished. This world-appearance will also
vanish when the true knowledge of reality dawns. When false
knowledge is once found to be false it cannot return again.
The Upani@sads tell us that he who sees the many here is
doomed. The one, the Brahman, alone is true; all else is but
delusion of name and form. Other systems believed that even
after emancipation, the world would continue as it is, that
there was nothing illusory in it, but I could not have any
knowledge of it because of the absence of the instruments by
the processes of which knowledge was generated. The Sa@mkhya
puru@sa cannot know the world when the buddhi-stuff
is dissociated from it and merged in the prak@rti, the Mima@msa
and the Nyaya soul is also incapable of knowing the world
after emancipation, as it is then dissociated from manas. But
the Vedanta position is quite distinct here. We cannot know
the world, for when the right knowledge dawns, the perception
of this world-appearance proves itself to be false to the
person who has witnessed the truth, the Brahman. An illusion
cannot last when the truth is known; what is truth is known to
us, but what is illusion is undemonstrable, unspeakable, and
indefinite. The illusion runs on from beginningless time; we do
not know how it is related to truth, the Brahman, but we know
that when the truth is once known the false knowledge of this

442

world-appearance disappears once for all. No intermediate link
is necessary to effect it, no mechanical dissociation of buddhi or
manas, but just as by finding out the glittering piece to be a conch-shell
the illusory perception of silver is destroyed, so this illusory
perception of world-appearance is also destroyed by a true
knowledge of the reality, the Brahman. The Upani@sads held
that reality or truth was one, and there was "no many" anywhere,
and S'ankara explained it by adding that the "many" was merely
an illusion, and hence did not exist in reality and was bound
to disappear when the truth was known. The world-appearance
is maya (illusion). This is what S'ankara emphasizes in expounding
his constructive system of the Upani@sad doctrine.
The question is sometimes asked, how the maya becomes associated
with Brahman. But Vedanta thinks this question illegitimate,
for this association did not begin in time either with
reference to the cosmos or with reference to individual persons.
In fact there is no real association, for the creation of illusion
does not affect the unchangeable truth. Maya or illusion is no
real entity, it is only false knowledge (_avidya_) that makes the
appearance, which vanishes when the reality is grasped and found.
Maya or avidya has an apparent existence only so long as it
lasts, but the moment the truth is known it is dissolved. It is
not a real entity in association with which a real world-appearance
has been brought into permanent existence, for it only has
existence so long as we are deluded by it (_pratitika-satta_).
Maya therefore is a category which baffles the ordinary logical
division of existence and non-existence and the principle of excluded
middle. For the maya can neither be said to be "is" nor
"is not" (_tattvanyatvabhyam anirvacaniya_). It cannot be said that
such a logical category does not exist, for all our dream and
illusory cognitions demonstrate it to us. They exist as they are
perceived, but they do not exist since they have no other independent
existence than the fact of their perception. If it has
any creative function, that function is as illusive as its
own nature, for the creation only lasts so long as the error lasts.
Brahman, the truth, is not in any way sullied or affected by association
with maya, for there can be no association of the real with the empty,
the maya, the illusory. It is no real association but a mere appearance.

443

In what sense is the world-appearance false?

The world is said to be false--a mere product of maya. The
falsehood of this world-appearance has been explained as involved
in the category of the indefinite which is neither _sat_ "is"
nor _asat_ "is not." Here the opposition of the "is" and "is not"
is solved by the category of time. The world-appearance is "is
not," since it does not continue to manifest itself in all times, and
has its manifestation up to the moment that the right knowledge
dawns. It is not therefore "is not" in the sense that a "castle in
the air" or a hare's horn is "is not," for these are called _tuccha_,
the absolutely non-existent. The world-appearance is said to be
"is" or existing, since it appears to be so for the time the state of
ignorance persists in us. Since it exists for a time it is _sat_ (is),
but since it does not exist for all times it is _asat_ (is not). This
is the appearance, the falsehood of the world-appearance (_jagat-prapanca_)
that it is neither _sat_ nor _asat_ in an absolute sense. Or
rather it may also be said in another way that the falsehood of
the world-appearance consists in this, that though it appears to
be the reality or an expression or manifestation of the reality, the
being, _sat_, yet when the reality is once rightly comprehended, it
will be manifest that the world never existed, does not exist,
and will never exist again. This is just what we find in an illusory
perception; when once the truth is found out that it is a conch-shell,
we say that the silver, though it appeared at the time of
illusory perception to be what we saw before us as "this" (this
is silver), yet it never existed before, does not now exist, and
will never exist again. In the case of the illusory perception of
silver, the "this" (pointing to a thing before me) appeared as
silver; in the case of the world-appearance, it is the being (_sat_),
the Brahman, that appears as the world; but as in the case when
the "this" before us is found to be a piece of conch-shell, the
silver is at once dismissed as having had no existence in the "this"
before us, so when the Brahman, the being, the reality, is once
directly realized, the conviction comes that the world never
existed. The negation of the world-appearance however has no
separate existence other than the comprehension of the identity
of the real. The fact that the real is realized is the same as that
the world-appearance is negated. The negation here involved
refers both to the thing negated (the world-appearance) and the

444

negation itself, and hence it cannot be contended that when the
conviction of the negation of the world is also regarded as false
(for if the negation is not false then it remains as an entity different
from Brahman and hence the unqualified monism fails), then this
reinstates the reality of the world-appearance; for negation of the
world-appearance is as much false as the world-appearance itself,
and hence on the realization of the truth the negative thesis,
that the world-appearance does not exist, includes the negation
also as a manifestation of world-appearance, and hence the only
thing left is the realized identity of the truth, the being. The
peculiarity of this illusion of world-appearance is this, that it
appears as consistent with or inlaid in the being (_sat_) though it
is not there. This of course is dissolved when right knowledge
dawns. This indeed brings home to us the truth that the world-appearance
is an appearance which is different from what we
know as real (_sadvilak@sa@na_); for the real is known to us as
that which is proved by the prama@nas, and which will never
again be falsified by later experience or other means of proof.
A thing is said to be true only so long as it is not contradicted;
but since at the dawn of right knowledge this world-appearance
will be found to be false and non-existing, it cannot be regarded
as real [Footnote ref l]. Thus Brahman alone is true, and the
world-appearance is false; falsehood and truth are not contrary entities
such that the negation or the falsehood of falsehood will mean truth.
The world-appearance is a whole and in referring to it the
negation refers also to itself as a part of the world-appearance
and hence not only is the positive world-appearance false, but
the falsehood itself is also false; when the world-appearance is
contradicted at the dawn of right knowledge, the falsehood itself
is also contradicted.

Brahman differs from all other things in this that it is self-luminous
(_svaprakas'a_) and has no form; it cannot therefore be the
object of any other consciousness that grasps it. All other things,
ideas, emotions, etc., in contrast to it are called _d@rs'ya_ (objects of
consciousness), while it is the _dra@s@ta_ (the pure consciousness
comprehending all objects). As soon as anything is comprehended as
an expression of a mental state (_v@rtti_), it is said to have a form and
it becomes d@rs'ya, and this is the characteristic of all objects of
consciousness that they cannot reveal themselves apart from being
manifested as objects of consciousness through a mental state.

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Advaitasiddhi, Mithyatvanirukti_.]

445

Brahman also, so long as it is understood as a meaning of the
Upani@sad text, is not in its true nature; it is only when it shines
forth as apart from the associations of any form that it is svaprakas'a
and dra@s@ta. The knowledge of the pure Brahman is devoid of any
form or mode. The notion of _d@rs'yatva_ (objectivity) carries with
it also the notion of _ja@datva_ (materiality) or its nature as
non-consciousness (_ajnanatva_) and non-selfness (_anatmatva_) which
consists in the want of self-luminosity of objects of consciousness.
The relation of consciousness (_jnana_) to its objects cannot be
regarded as real but as mere illusory impositions, for as we shall
see later, it is not possible to determine the relation between
knowledge and its forms. Just as the silver-appearance of the
conch-shell is not its own natural appearance, so the forms in
which consciousness shows itself are not its own natural essence.
In the state of emancipation when supreme bliss (_ananda_) shines
forth, the ananda is not an object or form of the illuminating
consciousness, but it is the illumination itself. Whenever there
is a form associated with consciousness, it is an extraneous illusory
imposition on the pure consciousness. These forms are different
from the essence of consciousness, not only in this that they
depend on consciousness for their expression and are themselves
but objects of consciousness, but also in this that they are all
finite determinations (_paricchinna_), whereas consciousness, the
abiding essence, is everywhere present without any limit whatsoever.
The forms of the object such as cow, jug, etc. are limited
in themselves in what they are, but through them all the pure
being runs by virtue of which we say that the cow is, the jug is,
the pot is. Apart from this pure being running through all the
individual appearances, there is no other class (_jati_) such as
cowness or jugness, but it is on this pure being that different
individual forms are illusorily imposed (_gha@tadikam sadarthekalpitam,
pratyekam tadanubiddhatvena pra@tiyamanatvat_). So
this world-appearance which is essentially different from the
Brahman, the being which forms the material cause on which it
is imposed, is false
(_upadanani@s@thaiyaniabhavapratiyogitvalak@sa@namithyatvasiddhi@h
--as Citsukha has it).

The nature of the world-appearance, phenomena.

The world-appearance is not however so illusory as the perception
of silver in the conch-shell, for the latter type of worldly
illusions is called _pratibhasika,_ as they are contradicted by other

446

later experiences, whereas the illusion of world-appearance is never
contradicted in this worldly stage and is thus called _vyavaharika_
(from _vyavahara_, practice, i.e. that on which is based all our
practical movements). So long as the right knowledge of the
Brahman as the only reality does not dawn, the world-appearance
runs on in an orderly manner uncontradicted by the accumulated
experience of all men, and as such it must be held to be true.
It is only because there comes such a stage in which the world-appearance
ceases to manifest itself that we have to say that from
the ultimate and absolute point of view the world-appearance is
false and unreal. As against this doctrine of the Vedanta it is
sometimes asked how, as we see the reality (_sattva_) before us,
we can deny that it has truth. To this the Vedanta answers
that the notion of reality cannot be derived from the senses, nor
can it be defined as that which is the content of right knowledge,
for we cannot have any conception of right knowledge without
a conception of reality, and no conception of reality without a
conception of right knowledge. The conception of reality comprehends
within it the notions of unalterability, absoluteness, and
independence, which cannot be had directly from experience,
as this gives only an appearance but cannot certify its truth.
Judged from this point of view it will be evident that the true
reality in all our experience is the one self-luminous flash of
consciousness which is all through identical with itself in all its
manifestations of appearance. Our present experience of the
world-appearance cannot in any way guarantee that it will not
be contradicted at some later stage. What really persists in all
experience is the being (_sat_) and not its forms. This being that
is associated with all our experience is not a universal genus nor
merely the individual appearance of the moment, but it is the
being, the truth which forms the substratum of all objective events
and appearances (_ekenaiva sarvanugatena sarvatra satpratiti@h_).
Things are not existent because they possess the genus of being
(_sat_) as Nyaya supposes, but they are so because they are themselves
but appearance imposed on one identical being as the basis
and ground of all experience. Being is thus said to be the basis
(_adhi@s@thana_) on which the illusions appear. This being is not
different with different things but one in all appearances. Our
perceptions of the world-appearance could have been taken as a
guarantee of their reality, if the reality which is supposed of them

447

could be perceived by the senses, and if inference and s'ruti (scriptures)
did not point the other way. Perception can of course invalidate
inference, but it can do so only when its own validity
has been ascertained in an undoubted and uncontested manner.
But this is not the case with our perceptions of the world-appearance,
for our present perceptions cannot prove that these
will never be contradicted in future, and inference and s'ruti are
also against it. The mere fact that I perceive the world-appearance
cannot prove that what I perceive is true or real, if it is contradicted
by inference. We all perceive the sun to be small, but our perception
in this case is contradicted by inference and we have
hence to admit that our perceptions are erroneous. We depend
(_upajivya_) indeed for all our transactions on perception, but such
dependence cannot prove that that on which we depend is absolutely
valid. Validity or reality can only be ascertained by
proper examination and enquiry (_parik@sa_), which may convince
us that there is no error in it. True it is that by the universal
testimony of our contemporaries and by the practical fruition and
realization of our endeavours in the external world, it is proved
beyond doubt that the world-appearance before us is a reality.
But this sort of examination and enquiry cannot prove to us with
any degree of satisfaction that the world-appearance will never
be contradicted at any time or at any stage. The Vedanta also
admits that our examination and enquiry prove to us that the
world-appearance now exists as it appears; it only denies that it
cannot continue to exist for all times, and a time will come when
to the emancipated person the world-appearance will cease to
exist. The experience, observation, and practical utility of the
objects as perceived by us cannot prove to us that these will
never be contradicted at any future time. Our perception of the
world-appearance cannot therefore disprove the Vedanta inference
that the world-appearance is false, and it will demonstrate itself
to be so at the time when the right knowledge of Brahman as
one dawns in us. The testimony of the Upani@sads also contradicts
the perception which grasps the world-appearance in its manifold
aspect.

Moreover we are led to think that the world-appearance is
false, for it is not possible for us to discover any true relation
between the consciousness (_d@rk_) and the objects of consciousness
(_d@rs'ya_). Consciousness must be admitted to have some kind of

448

connection with the objects which it illumines, for had it not been
so there could be any knowledge at any time irrespective of its
connections with the objects. But it is not possible to imagine
any kind of connection between consciousness and its objects, for
it can neither be contact (_sa@myoga_) nor inherence (_samavaya_);
and apart from these two kinds of connections we know of no
other. We say that things are the objects of our consciousness,
but what is meant by it is indeed difficult to define. It cannot
be that objectivity of consciousness means that a special effect
like the jnatata of Mima@msa is produced upon the object, for such
an effect is not admissible or perceivable in any way; nor can
objectivity also mean any practical purpose (of being useful to us)
associated with the object as Prabhakara thinks, for there are
many things which are the objects of our consciousness but not
considered as useful (e.g. the sky). Objectivity also cannot mean
that the thing is the object of the thought-movement (_jnana-kara@na_)
involved in knowledge, for this can only be with reference
to objects present to the perceiver, and cannot apply to objects
of past time about which one may be conscious, for if the thing is
not present how can it be made an object of thought-movement?
Objectivity further cannot mean that the things project their own
forms on the knowledge and are hence called objects, for though
this may apply in the case of perception, it cannot be true of
inference, where the object of consciousness is far away and does
not mould consciousness after its own form. Thus in whatever
way we may try to conceive manifold things existing separately
and becoming objects of consciousness we fail. We have also
seen that it is difficult to conceive of any kind of relation subsisting
between objects and consciousness, and hence it has to be
admitted that the imposition of the world-appearance is after all
nothing but illusory.

Now though all things are but illusory impositions on consciousness
yet for the illumination of specific objects it is admitted
even by Vedanta that this can only take place through specific
sense-contact and particular mental states (_v@rtti_) or modes; but
if that be so why not rather admit that this can take place
even on the assumption of the absolute reality of the manifold
external world without? The answer that the Vedanta gives to
such a question is this, that the phenomenon of illumination has
not to undergo any gradual process, for it is the work of one

449

flash like the work of the light of a lamp in removing darkness;
so it is not possible that the external reality should have to
pass through any process before consciousness could arise; what
happens is simply this, that the reality (_sat_) which subsists in all
things as the same identical one reveals the object as soon as its
veil is removed by association with the v@rtti (mental mould or
state). It is like a light which directly and immediately illuminates
everything with which it comes into relation. Such an illumination
of objects by its underlying reality would have been continuous
if there were no veils or covers, but that is not so as the
reality is hidden by the veil of ajnana (nescience). This veil is
removed as soon as the light of consciousness shines through a
mental mould or v@rtti, and as soon as it is removed the thing
shines forth. Even before the formation of the v@rtti the illusory
impositions on the reality had still been continuing objectively,
but it could not be revealed as it was hidden by ajnana which is
removed by the action of the corresponding v@rtti; and as soon as
the veil is removed the thing shines forth in its true light. The
action of the senses, eye, etc. serves but to modify the v@rtti of the
mind, and the v@rtti of the mind once formed, the corresponding
ajnana veil which was covering the corresponding specific part of
the world-appearance is removed, and the illumination of the
object which was already present, being divested of the veil, shows
itself forth. The illusory creations were there, but they could not
be manifested on account of the veil of nescience. As soon as the
veil is removed by the action of the v@rtti the light of reality shows
the corresponding illusory creations. So consciousness in itself
is the ever-shining light of reality which is never generated but
ever exists; errors of perception (e.g. silver in the conch-shell)
take place not because the do@sa consisting of the defect of the
eye, the glaze of the object and such other elements that contributed
to the illusion, generated the knowledge, but because it
generated a wrong v@rtti. It is because of the generation of the
wrong v@rtti that the manifestation is illusory. In the illusion
"this is silver" as when we mistake the conch-shell for the silver,
it is the _cit,_ consciousness or reality as underlying the object
represented to us by "this" or "_idam_" that is the basis (_adhi@s@thana_)
of the illusion of silver. The cause of error is our nescience or
non-cognition (_ajnana_) of it in the form of the conch-shell, whereas
the right knowledge is the cognition of it as conch-shell. The

450

basis is not in the content of my knowledge as manifested in my
mental state (_v@rtti_), so that the illusion is not of the form
that the "knowledge is silver" but of "this is silver." Objective
phenomena as such have reality as their basis, whereas the expression
of illumination of them as states of knowledge is made
through the _cit_ being manifested through the mental mould or
states. Without the v@rtti there is no illuminating knowledge.
Phenomenal creations are there in the world moving about as
shadowy forms on the unchangeable basis of one cit or reality,
but this basis, this light of reality, can only manifest these forms
when the veil of nescience covering them is temporarily removed
by their coming in touch with a mental mould or mind-modification
(_v@rtti_). It is sometimes said that since all illumination of
knowledge must be through the mental states there is no other
entity of pure consciousness apart from what is manifested
through the states. This Vedanta does not admit, for it holds
that it is necessary that before the operation of the mental
states can begin to interpret reality, reality must already be
there and this reality is nothing but pure consciousness. Had
there been no reality apart from the manifesting states of knowledge,
the validity of knowledge would also cease; so it has to
be admitted that there is the one eternal self-luminous reality
untouched by the characteristics of the mental states, which are
material and suffer origination and destruction. It is this self-luminous
consciousness that seems to assume diverse forms
in connection with diverse kinds of associations or limitations
(_upadhi_). It manifests _ajnana_ (nescience) and hence does not by
itself remove the ajnana, except when it is reflected through any
specific kind of v@rtti. There is of course no difference, no inner
and outer varieties between the reality, the pure consciousness
which is the essence, the basis and the ground of all phenomenal
appearances of the objective world, and the consciousness that
manifests itself through the mental states. There is only one
identical pure consciousness or reality, which is at once the basis
of the phenomena as well, is their interpreter by a reflection
through the mental states or v@rttis.

The phenomena or objects called the drs'ya can only be determined
in their various forms and manifestations but not as
to their ultimate reality; there is no existence as an entity of
any relation such as sa@myoga (contact) or samavaya (inherence)

451

between them and the pure consciousness called the d@rk; for the
truth is this, that the d@rk (perceiver) and the d@rs'ya (perceived)
have one identical reality; the forms of phenomena are but
illusory creations on it.

It is sometimes objected that in the ordinary psychological
illusion such as "this is silver," the knowledge of "this" as a thing
is only of a general and indefinite nature, for it is perceived
as a thing but its special characteristics as a conch-shell are not
noticed, and thus the illusion is possible. But in Brahman or pure
consciousness there are neither definite nor indefinite characteristics
of any kind, and hence it cannot be the ground of any
illusion as the piece of conch-shell perceived indefinitely as a mere
"this" can be. The answer of Vedanta is that when the Brahman
stands as the ground (_adhi@s@thana_) of the world-appearance its
characteristic as sat or real only is manifested, whereas its special
character as pure and infinite bliss is never noticed; or rather it
may be said that the illusion of world-appearance is possible
because the Brahman in its true and correct nature is never revealed
to us in our objective consciousness; when I say "the jug is,"
the "isness," or "being," does not shine in its purity, but only as
a characteristic of the jug-form, and this is the root of the illusion.
In all our experiences only the aspect of Brahman as real shines
forth in association with the manifold objects, and therefore the
Brahman in its true nature being unknown the illusion is made
possible. It is again objected that since the world-appearance
can serve all practical purposes, it must be considered as real and
not illusory. But the Vedanta points out that even by illusory
perceptions practical effects are seen to take place; the illusory
perception of a snake in a rope causes all the fear that a real snake
could do; even in dreams we feel happy and sad, and dreams
may be so bad as to affect or incapacitate the actual physical
functions and organs of a man. So it is that the past impressions
imbedded in us continuing from beginningless time are sufficient
to account for our illusory notions, just as the impressions produced
in actual waking life account for the dream creations.
According to the good or bad deeds that a man has done in
previous lives and according to the impressions or potencies
(_sa@mskara_) of his past lives each man has a particular kind of
world-experience for himself and the impressions of one cannot
affect the formation of the illusory experience of the other. But

452

the experience of the world-appearance is not wholly a subjective
creation for each individual, for even before his cognition the
phenomena of world-appearance were running in some unknowable
state of existence (_svena adhyastasya sa@mskarasya
viyadadyadhyasajanakatvopapatte@h tatpratityabhavepi tadadhyasasya
purvam sattvat k@rtsnasyapi vyavaharikapadarthasya
ajnatasattvabhyupagamat_). It is again sometimes objected that illusion
is produced by malobserved similarity between the ground (_adhi@s@thana_)
and the illusory notion as silver in "this is silver," but
no such similarity is found between the Brahman and the world-appearance.
To this Vedanta says that similarity is not an indispensable
factor in the production of an illusion (e.g. when a
white conch is perceived as yellow owing to the defect of the eye
through the influence of bile or _pitta_). Similarity helps the production
of illusion by rousing up the potencies of past impressions
or memories; but this rousing of past memories may as well be
done by _ad@r@s@ta_--the unseen power of our past good or bad deeds.
In ordinary illusion some defect is necessary but the illusion of
this world-appearance is beginningless, and hence it awaits no
other do@sa (defect) than the avidya (nescience) which constitutes
the appearance. Here avidya is the only do@sa and Brahman is the
only adhi@s@thana or ground. Had there not been the Brahman, the
self-luminous as the adhi@s@thana, the illusory creations could not
have been manifested at all The cause of the direct perception
of illusion is the direct but indefinite perception of the adhi@s@thana.
Hence where the adhi@s@thana is hidden by the veil of avidya, the
association with mental states becomes necessary for removing
the veil and manifesting thereby the self-luminous adhi@s@thana.
As soon as the adhi@s@thana, the ground, the reality, the blissful
self-luminous Brahman is completely realized the illusions disappear.
The disappearance of the phenomena means nothing
more than the realization of the self-luminous Brahman.

The Definition of Ajnana (nescience).

Ajnana the cause of all illusions is defined as that which is
beginningless, yet positive and removable by knowledge (_anadibhavarupatve
sati jnananivartyatvam_). Though it manifests itself
in all ordinary things (veiled by it before they become objects of
perception) which have a beginning in time, yet it itself has no
beginning, for it is associated with the pure consciousness which

453

is beginningless. Again though it has been described as positive
(_bhavarupa_) it can very well constitute the essence of negation
(_abhava_) too, for the positivity (_bhavatva_) does not mean here the
opposite of abhava (negation) but notes merely its difference from
abhava (_abhava-vilak@sa@natvamatram vivak@sitam_). Ajnana is not
a positive entity (_bhava_) like any other positive entity, but it is
called positive simply because it is not a mere negation (_abhava_).
It is a category which is believed neither to be positive in the
ordinary sense nor negative, but a third one which is different
both from position as well as from negation. It is sometimes
objected that ajnana is a mere illusory imagination of the moment
caused by defect (_do@sa_) and hence it cannot be beginningless
(_anadi_); but Vedanta holds that the fact that it is an imagination
or rather imposition, does not necessarily mean that it is merely
a temporary notion produced by the defects; for it could have
been said to be a temporary product of the moment if the ground
as well as the illusory creation associated with it came into being
for the moment, but this is not the case here, as the cit, the
ground of illusion, is ever-present and the ajnana therefore being
ever associated with it is also beginningless. The ajnana is the
indefinite which is veiling everything, and as such is different
from the definite or the positive and the negative. Though it is
beginningless yet it can be removed by knowledge, for to have
a beginning or not to have it does not in any way determine
whether the thing is subject to dissolution or not for the dissolution
of a thing depends upon the presence of the thing which
can cause it; and it is a fact that when knowledge comes the
illusion is destroyed; it does not matter whether the cause which
produced the illusion was beginningless or not. Some Vedantists
however define ajnana as the substance constituting illusion, and
say that though it is not a positive entity yet it may be regarded
as forming the substance of the illusion; it is not necessary that
only a positive entity should be the matter of any thing, for what
is necessary for the notion of a material cause (_upadana_) is this,
that it should continue or persist as the same in all changes of
effects. It is not true that only what is positive can persist in
and through the effects which are produced in the time process.
Illusion is unreal and it is not unnatural that the ajnana which
also is unreal should be the cause of it.

454

Ajnana established by Perception and Inference.

Ajnana defined as the indefinite which is neither positive nor
negative is also directly experienced by us in such perceptions
as "I do not know, or I do not know myself or anybody else,"
or "I do not know what you say," or more particularly "I had
been sleeping so long happily and did not know anything." Such
perceptions point to an object which has no definite characteristics,
and which cannot properly be said to be either positive or negative.
It may be objected that the perception "I do not know" is not
the perception of the indefinite, the ajnana, but merely the negation
of knowledge. To this Vedanta says that had it been the
perception of a negation merely, then the negation must have
been associated with the specific object to which it applied.
A negation must imply the thing negatived; in fact negation
generally appears as a substantive with the object of negation
as a qualifying character specifying the nature of the negation.
But the perception "I do not know or I had no knowledge" does
not involve the negation of any particular knowledge of any
specific object, but the knowledge of an indefinite objectless
ignorance. Such an indefinite ajnana is positive in the sense that
it is certainly not negative, but this positive indefinite is not positive
in the same sense in which other definite entities are called positive,
for it is merely the characterless, passive indefinite showing itself
in our experience. If negation meant only a general negation,
and if the perception of negation meant in each case the perception
of a general negation, then even where there is a jug on
the ground, one should perceive the negation of the jug on the
ground, for the general negation in relation to other things is there.
Thus negation of a thing cannot mean the general notion of the
negation of all specific things; similarly a general negation without
any specific object to which it might apply cannot manifest
itself to consciousness; the notion of a general negation of knowledge
is thus opposed to any and every knowledge, so that if the
latter is present the former cannot be, but the perception "I do
not know" can persist, even though many individual objects be
known to us. Thus instead of saying that the perception of "I do
not know" is the perception of a special kind of negation, it is
rather better to say that it is the perception of a different category
namely the indefinite, the ajnana. It is our common experience

455

that after experiencing the indefinite (_ajnana_) of a specific type
we launch forth in our endeavours to remove it. So it has to be
admitted that the perception of the indefinite is different from the
perception of mere negation. The character of our perceiving
consciousness (_sak@si_) is such that both the root ajnana as well
as its diverse forms with reference to particular objects as represented
in mental states (_v@rtti-jnana_), are comprehended by it.
Of course when the v@rttijnana about a thing as in ordinary
perceptions of objects comes in, the ajnana with regard to it is
temporarily removed, for the v@rttijnana is opposed to the ajnana.
But so far as our own perceiving consciousness (_sak@si-caitanya_)
is conceived it can comprehend both the ajnana and the jnana
(knowledge) of things. It is thus often said that all things show
themselves to the perceiving consciousness either as known or
as unknown. Thus the perceiving consciousness comprehends all
positives either as indefinite ajnana or as states of knowledge
or as specific kinds of ajnana or ignorance, but it is unable to
comprehend a negation, for negation (_abhava_) is not a perception,
but merely the absence of perception (_anupalabdhi_). Thus when
I say I do not know this, I perceive the indefinite in consciousness
with reference to that thing, and this is not the perception of a
negation of the thing. An objection is sometimes raised from
the Nyaya point of view that since without the knowledge of a
qualification (_vis'e@sana_) the qualified thing (_vis'i@s@ta_) cannot be
known, the indefinite about an object cannot be present in consciousness
without the object being known first. To this Vedanta
replies that the maxim that the qualification must be known
before the qualified thing is known is groundless, for we can as
well perceive the thing first and then its qualification. It is not
out of place here to say that negation is not a separate entity,
but is only a peculiar mode of the manifestation of the positive.
Even the naiyayikas would agree that in the expression "there
is no negation of a jug here," no separate negation can be accepted,
for the jug is already present before us. As there are distinctions
and differences in positive entities by illusory impositions, so
negations are also distinguished by similar illusory impositions
and appear as the negation of jug, negation of cloth, etc.; so all
distinctions between negations are unnecessary, and it may be
accepted that negation like position is one which appears as many
on account of illusory distinctions and impositions. Thus the

456

content of negation being itself positive, there is no reason to
object that such perceptions as "I do not know" refer to the
perception of an indefinite ajnana in consciousness. So also the
perception "I do not know what you say" is not the perception
of negation, for this would require that the hearer should know
first what was said by the speaker, and if this is so then it is
impossible to say "I do not know what you say."

So also the cognition "I was sleeping long and did not
know anything" has to be admitted as referring to the perception
of the indefinite during sleep. It is not true as some say that
during sleep there is no perception, but what appears to the
awakened man as "I did not know anything so long" is only an
inference; for, it is not possible to infer from the pleasant and
active state of the senses in the awakened state that the activity
had ceased in the sleep state and that since he had no object of
knowledge then, he could not know anything; for there is no
invariable concomitance between the pleasant and active state of
the senses and the absence of objects of knowledge in the immediately
preceding state. During sleep there is a mental state
of the form of the indefinite, and during the awakened state it is
by the impression (_sa@mskara_) of the aforesaid mental state of
ajnana that one remembers that state and says that "I did not
perceive anything so long." The indefinite (_ajnana_) perceived in
consciousness is more fundamental and general than the mere
negation of knowledge (_jnanabhava_) and the two are so connected
that though the latter may not be felt, yet it can be inferred from
the perception of the indefinite. The indefinite though not definite
is thus a positive content different from negation and is perceived as
such in direct and immediate consciousness both in the awakened
state as well as in the sleeping state.

The presence of this ajnana may also be inferred from the
manner in which knowledge of objects is revealed in consciousness,
as this always takes place in bringing a thing into consciousness
which was not known or rather known as indefinite before we
say "I did not know it before, but I know it now." My present
knowledge of the thing thus involves the removal of an indefinite
which was veiling it before and positing it in consciousness, just
as the first streak of light in utter darkness manifests itself by
removing the darkness[Footnote ref 1]. Apart from such an inference its
existence

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Pancapadikavivara@na, Tattvadipana_, and
_Advaitasiddhi_.]

457

is also indicated by the fact that the infinite bliss of Brahman
does not show itself in its complete and limitless aspect. If there
was no ajnana to obstruct, it would surely have manifested itself
in its fullness. Again had it not been for this ajnana there would
have been no illusion. It is the ajnana that constitutes the substance
of the illusion; for there is nothing else that can be regarded
as constituting its substance; certainly Brahman could not, as it
is unchangeable. This ajnana is manifested by the perceiving
consciousness (_sak@si_) and not by the pure consciousness. The
perceiving consciousness is nothing but pure intelligence which
reflects itself in the states of avidya (ignorance).

Locus and Object of Ajnana, Aha@mkara, and Anta@hkara@na.

This ajnana rests on the pure _cit_ or intelligence. This cit or
Brahman is of the nature of pure illumination, but yet it is not
opposed to the ajnana or the indefinite. The cit becomes opposed
to the ajnana and destroys it only when it is reflected through the
mental states (_v@rtti_). The ajnana thus rests on the pure cit and not
on the cit as associated with such illusory impositions as go to
produce the notion of ego "_aham_" or the individual soul. Vacaspati
Mis'ra however holds that the ajnana does not rest on the pure cit
but on the jiva (individual soul). Madhava reconciles this view of
Vacaspati with the above view, and says that the ajnana may be
regarded as resting on the jiva or individual soul from this point of
view that the obstruction of the pure cit is with reference to the jiva
(_Cinmatras'ritam ajnanam jivapak@sapatitvat jivas'ritam ucyate_
Vivara@naprameya, p. 48). The feeling "I do not know" seems
however to indicate that the ajnana is with reference to the perceiving
self in association with its feeling as ego or "I"; but this
is not so; such an appearance however is caused on account of
the close association of ajnana with anta@hkara@na (mind) both of
which are in essence the same (see Vivara@naprarneyasa@mgraha,
p. 48).

The ajnana however does not only rest on the cit, but it has
the cit as its visaya or object too, i.e. its manifestations are
with reference to the self-luminous cit. The self-luminous cit is
thus the entity on which the veiling action of the ajnana is noticed;
the veiling action is manifested not by destroying the self-luminous
character, nor by stopping a future course of luminous career on
the part of the cit, nor by stopping its relations with the vi@saya,

458

but by causing such an appearance that the self-luminous cit
seems so to behave that we seem to think that it is not or it does
not shine (_nasti na prakas'ate iti vyavahara@h_) or rather there is no
appearance of its shining or luminosity. To say that Brahman is
hidden by the ajnana means nothing more than this, that it is
such {_tadyogyata_) that the ajnana can so relate itself with it that
it appears to be hidden as in the state of deep sleep and other
states of ajnana-consciousness in experience. Ajnana is thus
considered to have both its locus and object in the pure cit. It
is opposed to the states of consciousness, for these at once dispel
it. The action of this ajn@ana is thus on the light of the reality
which it obstructs for us, so long as the obstruction is not dissolved
by the states of consciousness. This obstruction of the cit is not
only with regard to its character as pure limitless consciousness
but also with regard to its character as pure and infinite bliss;
so it is that though we do not experience the indefinite in our
pleasurable feelings, yet its presence as obstructing the pure cit
is indicated by the fact that the full infinite bliss constituting the
essence of Brahman is obstructed; and as a result of that there
is only an incomplete manifestation of the bliss in our phenomenal
experiences of pleasure. The ajnana is one, but it seems to obstruct
the pure cit in various aspects or modes, with regard to which it
may be said that the ajnana has many states as constituting the
individual experiences of the indefinite with reference to the
diverse individual objects of experience. These states of ajnana
are technically called tulajnana or avasthajnana. Any state of
consciousness (v@rttijnana) removes a manifestation of the ajnana
as tulajnana and reveals itself as the knowledge of an object.

The most important action of this ajnana as obstructing the
pure cit, and as creating an illusory phenomenon is demonstrated
in the notion of the ego or aha@mkara. This notion of aha@mkara
is a union of the true self, the pure consciousness and other
associations, such as the body, the continued past experiences, etc.;
it is the self-luminous characterless Brahman that is found obstructed
in the notion of the ego as the repository of a thousand
limitations, characters, and associations. This illusory creation of
the notion of the ego runs on from beginningless time, each set
of previous false impositions determining the succeeding set of
impositions and so on. This blending of the unreal associations
held up in the mind (_anta@hkara@na_) with the real, the false with

459

the true, that is at the root of illusion. It is the anta@hkara@na taken
as the self-luminous self that reflects itself in the cit as the notion
of the ego. Just as when we say that the iron ball (red hot) burns,
there are two entities of the ball and the fire fused into one,
so, here also when I say "I perceive", there are two distinct elements
of the self, as consciousness and the mind or antahkarana fused
into one. The part or aspect associated with sorrow, materiality,
and changefulness represents the anta@hkara@na, whereas that which
appears as the unchangeable perceiving consciousness is the self.
Thus the notion of ego contains two parts, one real and other
unreal.

We remember that this is distinctly that which Prabhakara
sought to repudiate. Prabhakara did not consider the self to be
self-luminous, and held that such is the threefold nature of thought
(_tripu@ti_), that it at once reveals the knowledge, the
object of knowledge, and the self. He further said, that the
analogy of the red-hot iron ball did not hold, for the iron ball
and the fire are separately experienced, but the self and the
anta@hkara@na are never separately experienced, and we can
never say that these two are really different, and only have an
illusory appearance of a seeming unity. Perception (_anubhava_)
is like a light which illuminates both the object and the self, and
like it does not require the assistance of anything else for the
fulfilment of its purpose. But the Vedanta objects to this saying
that according to Prabhakara's supposition, it is impossible to
discover any relation between the self and the knowledge. If
knowledge can be regarded as revealing itself, the self may as
well be held to be self-luminous; the self and the knowledge
are indeed one and the same. Kumarila thinks this thought
(_anubhava_), to be a movement, Nyaya and Prabhakara as a
quality of the self [Footnote ref 1]. But if it was a movement like other
movements, it could not affect itself as illumination. If it were a
substance and atomic in size, it would only manifest a small portion of
a thing, if all pervasive, then it would illuminate everything,
if of medium size, it would depend on its parts for its own

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: According to Nyaya the _atman_ is conscious only through
association with consciousness, but it is not consciousness(_cit_).
Consciousness is associated with it only as a result of suitable
collocations. Thus, _Nyayamanjari_ in refuting the doctrine of
self-luminosity {_svaprakas'a_) says (p.432)

_sacetanas'cita yogattadyogena vina ja@da@h
narthavabhasadanyaddhi caitanya@m nama manma@he.]

460

constitution and not on the self. If it is regarded as a quality
of the self as the light is of the lamp, then also it has necessarily
to be supposed that it was produced by the self, for from what
else could it be produced? Thus it is to be admitted that the
self, the atman, is the self-luminous entity. No one doubts any
of his knowledge, whether it is he who sees or anybody else.
The self is thus the same as vijnana, the pure consciousness,
which is always of itself self-luminous [Footnote ref 1].

Again, though consciousness is continuous in all stages,
waking or sleeping, yet aha@mkara is absent during deep sleep.
It is true that on waking from deep sleep one feels "I slept
happily and did not know anything"; yet what happens is this,
that during deep sleep the anta@hkara@na and the aha@mkara are
altogether submerged in the ajnana, and there are only the
ajnana and the self; on waking, this aha@mkara as a state of
anta@hkar@na is again generated, and then it associates the perception
of the ajnana in the sleep and originates the perception
"I did not know anything." This aha@mkara which is a mode
(_v@rtti_) of the anta@hkara@na is thus constituted by avidya, and is
manifested as jnanas'akti (power of knowledge) and kriyas'akti
(power of work). This kriyas'akti of the aha@mkara is illusorily
imposed upon the self, and as a result of that the self appears to
be an active agent in knowing and willing. The aha@mkara
itself is regarded, as we have already seen, as a mode or v@rtti of
the anta@hkara@na, and as such the aha@mkara of a past period can
now be associated; but even then the v@rtti of anta@hkara@na,
aha@mkara, may be regarded as only the active side or aspect of
the anta@hkara@na. The same anta@hkara@na is called manas in its
capacity as doubt buddhi in its capacity as achieving certainty of
knowledge, and citta in its capacity as remembering [Footnote ref 2]. When
the pure cit shines forth in association with this anta@hkara@na, it is
called a jiva. It is clear from the above account that the ajnana
is not a mere nothing, but is the principle of the phenomena. But
it cannot stand alone, without the principle of the real to support
it (_as'raya_); its own nature as the ajnana or indefinite is perceived
directly by the pure consciousness; its movements as originating
the phenomena remain indefinite in themselves, the real as underlying

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Nyayamakaranda_, pp. 130-140, _Citshkha_ and
_Vivara@naprameyasa@mgraha_, pp. 53-58.]

[Footnote 2: See _Vedanta-paribha@sa_, p. 88, Bombay edition.]

461

these phenomenal movements can only manifest itself
through these which hide it, when corresponding states arise in
the anta@hkara@na, and the light of the real shines forth through
these states. The anta@hkara@na of which aha@mkara is a moment,
is itself a beginningless system of ajnana-phenomena containing
within it the associations and impressions of past phenomena as
merit, demerit, instincts, etc. from a beginningless time when the
jiva or individual soul began his career.

Anirvacyavada and the Vedanta Dialectic.

We have already seen that the indefinite ajnana could be
experienced in direct perception and according to Vedanta there
are only two categories. The category of the real, the self-luminous
Brahman, and the category of the indefinite. The latter
has for its ground the world-appearance, and is the principle by
which the one unchangeable Brahman is falsely manifested in all
the diversity of the manifold world. But this indefinite which is
different from the category of the positive and the negative, has
only a relative existence and will ultimately vanish, when the
true knowledge of the Brahman dawns. Nothing however can
be known about the nature of this indefinite except its character
as indefinite. That all the phenomena of the world, the fixed
order of events, the infinite variety of world-forms and names,
all these are originated by this avidya, ajnana or maya is indeed
hardly comprehensible. If it is indefinite nescience, how can all
these well-defined forms of world-existence come out of it? It is
said to exist only relatively, and to have only a temporary existence
beside the permanent infinite reality. To take such a principle
and to derive from it the mind, matter, and indeed everything
else except the pure self-luminous Brahman, would hardly
appeal to our reason. If this system of world-order were only
seeming appearance, with no other element of truth in it except
pure being, then it would be indefensible in the light of reason.
It has been proved that whatever notions we have about the
objective world are all self-contradictory, and thus groundless and
false. If they have all proceeded from the indefinite they must
show this character when exposed to discerning criticism. All
categories have to be shown to be so hopelessly confused and to
be without any conceivable notion that though apparent before
us yet they crumble into indefiniteness as soon as they are

462

examined, and one cannot make such assertion about them as
that they are or that they are not. Such negative criticisms of our
fundamental notions about the world-order were undertaken by
S'rihar@sa and his commentator and follower Citsukha. It is impossible
within the limits of this chapter, to give a complete
account of their criticisms of our various notions of reality.
I shall give here, only one example.

Let us take the examination of the notion of difference
(_bheda_)from _Kha@n@danakha@n@dakhadya_. Four explanations are
possible about the notion of difference: (1) the difference may be
perceived as appearing in its own characteristics in our experience
(_svarupa-bheda_) as Prabhakara thinks; (2) the difference
between two things is nothing but the absence of one in the other
(_anyonyabhava_), as some Naiyayikas and Bha@t@tas think; (3) difference
means divergence of characteristics (_vaidharmya_) as the
Vais'e@sikas speak of it; (4) difference may be a separate quality
in itself like the p@rthaktva quality of Nyaya. Taking the first
alternative, we see that it is said that the jug and the cloth
represent in themselves, by their very form and existence, their
mutual difference from each other. But if by perceiving the
cloth we only perceive its difference from the jug as the characteristic
of the cloth, then the jug also must have penetrated
into the form of the cloth, otherwise how could we perceive
in the cloth its characteristics as the difference from the jug?
i.e. if difference is a thing which can be directly perceived by
the senses, then as difference would naturally mean difference
from something else, it is expected that something else such
as jug, etc. from which the difference is perceived, must also
be perceived directly in the perception of the cloth. But if
the perception of "difference" between two things has penetrated
together in the same identical perception, then the self-contradiction
becomes apparent. Difference as an entity is not what
we perceive in the cloth, for difference means difference from
something else, and if that thing from which the difference is
perceived is not perceived, then how can the difference as an
entity be perceived? If it is said that the cloth itself represents
its difference from the jug, and that this is indicated by the jug,
then we may ask, what is the nature of the jug? If the difference
from the cloth is the very nature of the jug, then the cloth
itself is also involved in the nature of the jug. If it is said that

463

the jug only indicates a term from which difference
is intended to be conveyed, then that also becomes impossible,
for how can we imagine that there is a term which is independent
of any association of its difference from other things,
and is yet a term which establishes the notion of difference? If
it is a term of difference, it cannot be independent of its relation
to other things from which it is differentiated. If its difference
from the cloth is a quality of the jug, then also the old difficulty
comes in, for its difference from the cloth would involve the
cloth also in itself; and if the cloth is involved in the nature of
the jug as its quality, then by the same manner the jug would
also be the character of the cloth, and hence not difference but
identity results. Moreover, if a cloth is perceived as a character
of the jug, the two will appear to be hanging one over the other,
but this is never so experienced by us. Moreover, it is difficult to
ascertain if qualities have any relation with things; if they have
not, then absence of relation being the same everywhere, everything
might be the quality of everything. If there is a relation
between these two, then that relation would require another
relation to relate itself with that relation, and that would again
require another relation and that another, and so on. Again, it
may be said that when the jug, etc. are seen without reference
to other things, they appear as jug, etc., but when they are
viewed with reference to cloth, etc. they appear as difference.
But this cannot be so, for the perception as jug is entirely
different from the perception of difference. It should also be
noted that the notion of difference is also different from the
notions of both the jug and the cloth. It is one thing to say
that there are jug and cloth, and quite another thing to say
that the jug is different from the cloth. Thus a jug cannot appear
as difference, though it may be viewed with reference to cloth.
The notion of a jug does not require the notions of other things
for its manifestation. Moreover, when I say the jug is different
from the cloth, I never mean that difference is an entity which is
the same as the jug or the cloth; what I mean is that the
difference of the cloth from the jug has its limits in the jug, and
not merely that the notion of cloth has a reference to jug. This
shows that difference cannot be the characteristic nature of the
thing perceived.

Again, in the second alternative where difference of two

463

things is defined as the absence of each thing in the other, we
find that if difference in jug and cloth means that the jug is not
in the cloth or that cloth is not in jug, then also the same
difficulty arises; for when I say that the absence or negation of
jug in the cloth is its difference from the jug, then also the
residence of the absence of jug in the cloth would require
that the jug also resides in the cloth, and this would reduce
difference to identity. If it is said that the absence of jug in the
cloth is not a separate thing, but is rather the identical cloth
itself, then also their difference as mutual exclusion cannot be
explained. If this mutual negation (_anyonyabhava_) is explained
as the mere absence of jugness in the cloth and of clothness in
the jug, then also a difficulty arises; for there is no such quality
in jugness or clothness that they may be mutually excluded;
and there is no such quality in them that they can be treated as
identical, and so when it is said that there is no jugness in cloth
we might as well say that there is no clothness in cloth, for
clothness and jugness are one and the same, and hence absence
of jugness in the cloth would amount to the absence of clothness
in the cloth which is self-contradictory. Taking again the third
alternative we see that if difference means divergence of characteristics
(_vaidharmya_), then the question arises whether the
vaidharmya or divergence as existing in jug has such a divergence
as can distinguish it from the divergence existing in the cloth; if
the answer is in the affirmative then we require a series of endless
vaidharmyas progressing _ad infinitum_. If the answer is in the
negative then there being no divergence between the two divergences
they become identical, and hence divergence of characteristics
as such ceases to exist. If it is said that the natural forms of
things are difference in themselves, for each of them excludes the
other, then apart from the differences--the natural forms--the
things are reduced to formlessness (_ni@hsvarupata_). If natural forms
(_svarupa_) mean special natural forms (_svarupa-vis'e@sa_) then as the
special natural forms or characteristics only represent difference,
the natural forms of the things as apart from the special ones
would appear to be identical. So also it may be proved that there
is no such quality as p@rthaktva (separateness) which can explain
differences of things, for there also the questions would arise as
to whether separateness exists in different things or similar ones
or whether separateness is identical with the thing in which it
exists or not, and so forth.

465

The earliest beginnings of this method of subtle analysis and
dialectic in Indian philosophy are found in the opening chapters
of _Kathavatthu_. In the great _Mahabha@sya_ on Pa@nini by Patanjali
also we find some traces of it. But Nagarjuna was the man who
took it up in right earnest and systematically cultivated it in all
its subtle and abstruse issues and counter-issues in order to prove
that everything that appeared as a fixed order or system was
non-existent, for all were unspeakable, indescribable and
self-contradictory, and thus everything being discarded there was
only the void (_s'unya_). S'a@nkara partially utilized this method in
his refutations of Nyaya and the Buddhist systems; but S'rihar@sa
again revived and developed it in a striking manner, and after
having criticized the most important notions and concepts of our
everyday life, which are often backed by the Nyaya system, sought
to prove that nothing in the world can be defined, and that we
cannot ascertain whether a thing is or is not. The refutations of
all possible definitions that the Nyaya could give necessarily led
to the conclusion that the things sought to be defined did not
exist though they appeared to do so; the Vedantic contention
was that this is exactly as it should be, for the indefinite ajnana
produces only appearances which when exposed to reason show
that no consistent notions of them can be formed, or in other
words the world-appearance, the phenomena of maya or ajnana,
are indefinable or anirvacaniya. This great work of S'rihar@sa
was followed by _Tattvadipika_ of Citsukha, in which he generally
followed S'rihar@sa and sometimes supplemented him with the
addition of criticisms of certain new concepts. The method of
Vedanta thus followed on one side the method of S'unyavada in
annulling all the concepts of world-appearance and on the other
Vijnanavada Buddhism in proving the self-illuminating character
of knowledge and ultimately established the self as the only self-luminous
ultimate reality.

The Theory of Causation.

The Vedanta philosophy looked at the constantly changing
phenomena of the world-appearance and sought to discover the
root whence proceeded the endless series of events and effects.
The theory that effects were altogether new productions caused
by the invariable unconditional and immediately preceding antecedents,
as well as the theory that it was the cause which evolved

466

and by its transformations produced the effect, are considered
insufficient to explain the problem which the Vedanta had before
it. Certain collocations invariably and unconditionally preceded
certain effects, but this cannot explain how the previous set of
phenomena could be regarded as producing the succeeding set.
In fact the concept of causation and production had in it
something quite undefinable and inexplicable. Our enquiry
after the cause is an enquiry after a more fundamental and
primary form of the truth of a thing than what appears at the
present moment when we wished to know what was the cause of
the jug, what we sought was a simpler form of which the effect
was only a more complex form of manifestation, what is the
ground, the root, out of which the effect has come forth? If
apart from such an enquiry we take the pictorial representation
of the causal phenomena in which some collocations being invariably
present at an antecedent point of time, the effect springs
forth into being, we find that we are just where we were before,
and are unable to penetrate into the logic of the affair. The
Nyaya definition of cause and effect may be of use to us in a
general way in associating certain groups of things of a particular
kind with certain other phenomena happening at a succeeding
moment as being relevant pairs of which one being present the
other also has a probability of being present, but can do nothing
more than this. It does not answer our question as to the nature
of cause. Antecedence in time is regarded in this view as an indispensable
condition for the cause. But time, according to Nyaya,
is one continuous entity; succession of time can only be conceived
as antecedence and consequence of phenomena, and these
again involve succession; thus the notions of succession of time
and of the antecedence and consequence of time being mutually
dependent upon each other (_anyonyas'raya_) neither of these can
be conceived independently. Another important condition is
invariability. But what does that mean? If it means invariable
antecedence, then even an ass which is invariably present as
an antecedent to the smoke rising from the washerman's
house, must be regarded as the cause of the smoke [Footnote ref 1]. If it
means such an antecedence as contributes to the happening of the effect,
it becomes again difficult to understand anything about its contributing

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Asses are used in carrying soiled linen in India. Asses are
always present when water is boiled for washing in the laundry.]

467

to the effect, for the only intelligible thing is the antecedence
and nothing more. If invariability means the existence of
that at the presence of which the effect comes into being, then also
it fails, for there may be the seed but no shoot, for the mere presence
of the seed will not suffice to produce the effect, the shoot. If it
is said that a cause can produce an effect only when it is associated
with its accessory factors, then also the question remains
the same, for we have not understood what is meant by cause.
Again when the same effect is often seen to be produced by a
plurality of causes, the cause cannot be defined as that which
happening the effect happens and failing the effect fails. It cannot
also be said that in spite of the plurality of causes, each particular
cause is so associated with its own particular kind of effect that
from a special kind of cause we can without fail get a special
kind of effect (cf. Vatsyayana and _Nyayamanjari_), for out of the
same clay different effects come forth namely the jug, the plate,
etc. Again if cause is defined as the collocation of factors, then
the question arises as to what is meant by this collocation; does
it mean the factors themselves or something else above them? On
the former supposition the scattered factors being always present
in the universe there should always be the effect; if it means
something else above the specific factors, then that something always
existing, there should always be the effect. Nor can collocation
(_samagri_) be defined as the last movement of the causes
immediately succeeding which the effect comes into being, for the
relation of movement with the collocating cause is incomprehensible.
Moreover if movement is defined as that which produces
the effect, the very conception of causation which was required
to be proved is taken for granted. The idea of necessity involved
in the causal conception that a cause is that which must produce
its effect is also equally undefinable, inexplicable, and logically
inconceivable. Thus in whatsoever way we may seek to find out
the real nature of the causal principle from the interminable
series of cause-effect phenomena we fail. All the characteristics
of the effects are indescribable and indefinable ajnana of maya,
and in whatever way we may try to conceive these phenomena in
themselves or in relation to one another we fail, for they are all
carved out of the indefinite and are illogical and illusory, and
some day will vanish for ever. The true cause is thus the pure
being, the reality which is unshakable in itself, the ground upon

468

which all appearances being imposed they appear as real. The
true cause is thus the unchangeable being which persists through
all experience, and the effect-phenomena are but impositions upon
it of ajnana or avidya. It is thus the clay, the permanent, that
is regarded as the cause of all clay-phenomena as jug, plates,
etc. All the various modes in which the clay appears are mere
appearances, unreal, indefinable and so illusory. The one truth
is the clay. So in all world-phenomena the one truth is
being, the Brahman, and all the phenomena that are being
imposed on it are but illusory forms and names. This is what
is called the _satkaryavada_ or more properly the _satkara@navada_
of the Vedanta, that the cause alone is true and ever existing,
and phenomena in themselves are false. There is only this
much truth in them, that all are imposed on the reality or being
which alone is true. This appearance of the one cause the
being, as the unreal many of the phenomena is what is called
the _vivarttavada_ as distinguished from the _sa@mkhyayogapari@namavada_,
in which the effect is regarded as the real development
of the cause in its potential state. When the effect has a
different kind of being from the cause it is called _vivartta_ but
when the effect has the same kind of being as the cause it is called
_pari@nama (kara@nasvalak@sa@nanyathabhava@h pari@nama@h tadvilak@sa@no
vivartta@h_ or _vastunastatsamattako'nyathabhava@h pari@nama@h
tadvi@samasattaka@h vivartta@h)_. Vedanta has as much to object
against the Nyaya as against the pari@nama theory of causation
of the Sa@mkhya; for movement, development, form, potentiality,
and actuality--all these are indefinable and inconceivable in the
light of reason; they cannot explain causation but only restate
things and phenomena as they appear in the world. In reality
however though phenomena are not identical with the cause,
they can never be defined except in terms of the cause (_Tadabhedam
vinaiva tadvyatireke@na durvacam karyyam vivartta@h)_.

This being the relation of cause and effect or Brahman and the
world, the different followers of S'a@nkara Vedanta in explaining
the cause of the world-appearance sometimes lay stress on the
maya, ajnana or avidya, sometimes on the Brahman, and sometimes
on them both. Thus Sarvaj@natmamuni, the writer of
_Sa@nk@sepa-s'ariraka_ and his followers think that the pure Brahman
should be regarded as the causal substance (_upadana_) of the
world-appearance, whereas Prakas'atman Akhan@dananda, and

469

Madhava hold that Brahman in association with maya, i.e. the
maya-reflected form of Brahman as Is'vara should be regarded
as the cause of the world-appearance. The world-appearance
is an evolution or pari@nama of the maya as located in Is'vara,
whereas Is'vara (God) is the vivartta causal matter. Others
however make a distinction between maya as the cosmical factor
of illusion and avidya as the manifestation of the same entity
in the individual or jiva. They hold that though the world-appearance
may be said to be produced by the maya yet the
mind etc. associated with the individual are produced by the
avidya with the jiva or the individual as the causal matter
(_upadana_). Others hold that since it is the individual to whom
both Is'vara and the world-appearance are manifested, it is better
rather to think that these are all manifestations of the jiva in
association with his avidya or ajnana. Others however hold that
since in the world-appearance we find in one aspect pure being
and in another materiality etc., both Brahman and maya are to
be regarded as the cause, Brahman as the permanent causal
matter, upadana and maya as the entity evolving in pari@nama.
Vacaspati Mis'ra thinks that Brahman is the permanent cause of
the world-appearance through maya as associated with jiva.
Maya is thus only a sahakari or instrument as it were, by which
the one Brahman appears in the eye of the jiva as the manifold
world of appearance. Prakas'ananda holds however in his _Siddhanta
Muktavali_ that Brahman itself is pure and absolutely unaffected
even as illusory appearance, and is not even the causal
matter of the world-appearance. Everything that we see in the
phenomenal world, the whole field of world-appearance, is the
product of maya, which is both the instrumental and the upadana
(causal matter) of the world-illusion. But whatever these divergences
of view may be, it is clear that they do not in any way affect
the principal Vedanta text that the only unchangeable cause is
the Brahman, whereas all else, the effect-phenomena, have only
a temporary existence as indefinable illusion. The word maya
was used in the @Rg-Veda in the sense of supernatural power and
wonderful skill, and the idea of an inherent mystery underlying
it was gradually emphasized in the Atharva Veda, and it began
to be used in the sense of magic or illusion. In the B@rhadara@nyaka,
Pras'na, and Svetas'vatara Upani@sads the word means magic. It
is not out of place here to mention that in the older Upani@sads

470

the word maya occurs only once in the B@rhadara@nyaka and once
only in the Pras'na. In early Pali Buddhist writings it occurs
only in the sense of deception or deceitful conduct. Buddhagho@sa
uses it in the sense of magical power. In Nagarjuna and the _Lankavatara_
it has acquired the sense of illusion. In S'a@nkara the
word maya is used in the sense of illusion, both as a principle
of creation as a s'akti (power) or accessory cause, and as the
phenomenal creation itself, as the illusion of world-appearance.

It may also be mentioned here that Gau@dapada the teacher
of S'a@nkara's teacher Govinda worked out a system with the help
of the maya doctrine. The Upani@sads are permeated with the
spirit of an earnest enquiry after absolute truth. They do not
pay any attention towards explaining the world-appearance or
enquiring into its relations with absolute truth. Gau@dapada asserts
clearly and probably for the first time among Hindu thinkers, that
the world does not exist in reality, that it is maya, and not reality.
When the highest truth is realized maya is not removed, for it is
not a thing, but the whole world-illusion is dissolved into its own
airy nothing never to recur again. It was Gau@dapada who compared
the world-appearance with dream appearances, and held that objects
seen in the waking world are unreal, because they are capable
of being seen like objects seen in a dream, which are false and
unreal. The atman says Gau@dapada is at once the cognizer and
the cognized, the world subsists in the atman through maya.
As atman alone is real and all duality an illusion, it necessarily
follows that all experience is also illusory. S'a@nkara expounded
this doctrine in his elaborate commentaries on the Upani@sads
and the Brahma-sutra, but he seems to me to have done little
more than making explicit the doctrine of maya. Some of his
followers however examined and thought over the concept of
maya and brought out in bold relief its character as the indefinable
thereby substantially contributing to the development of
the Vedanta philosophy.

Vedanta theory of Perception and Inference [Footnote ref 1].

Prama@na is the means that leads to right knowledge. If
memory is intended to be excluded from the definition then

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Dharmarajadhvarindra and his son Ramak@r@s@na worked out a
complete scheme of the theory of Vedantic perception and inference.
This is in complete agreement with the general Vedanta metaphysics.
The early Vedantists were more interested in demonstrating the illusory
nature of the world of appearance, and did not work out a logical theory.
It may be incidentally mentioned that in the theory of inference as
worked out by Dharmarajadhvarindra he was largely indebted to the Mimam@sa
school of thought. In recognizing arthapatti, upamana s'abda and
anupalabdhi also Dharmarajadhvarindra accepted the Mimam@sa view. The
Vedantins, previous to Dharmarajadhvarindra, had also tacitly followed
the Mimam@sa in these matters.]

471

prama@na is to be defined as the means that leads to such right
knowledge as has not already been acquired. Right knowledge
(_prama_) in Vedanta is the knowledge of an object which has not
been found contradicted (_abadhitarthavi@sayajnanatva_). Except
when specially expressed otherwise, prama is generally considered
as being excludent of memory and applies to previously unacquired
(_anadhigata_) and uncontradicted knowledge. Objections
are sometimes raised that when we are looking at a thing for a
few minutes, the perception of the thing in all the successive
moments after the first refers to the image of the thing acquired
in the previous moments. To this the reply is that the Vedanta
considers that so long as a different mental state does not arise,
any mental state is not to be considered as momentary but as
remaining ever the same. So long as we continue to perceive
one thing there is no reason to suppose that there has been a
series of mental states. So there is no question as to the knowledge
of the succeeding moments being referred to the knowledge
of the preceding moments, for so long as any mental
state has any one thing for its object it is to be considered as
having remained unchanged all through the series of moments.
There is of course this difference between the same percept of a
previous and a later moment following in succession, that fresh
elements of time are being perceived as prior and later, though
the content of the mental state so far as the object is concerned
remains unchanged. This time element is perceived by the senses
though the content of the mental state may remain undisturbed.
When I see the same book for two seconds, my mental state
representing the book is not changed every second, and hence
there can be no _such supposition_ that I am having separate mental
states in succession each of which is a repetition of the previous
one, for so long as the general content of the mental state remains
the same there is no reason for supposing that there has been any
change in the mental state. The mental state thus remains the
same so long as the content is not changed, but though it remains
the same it can note the change in the time elements as extraneous

472

addition. All our uncontradicted knowledge of the objects of the
external world should be regarded as right knowledge until the
absolute is realized.

When the anta@hkara@na (mind) comes in contact with the
external objects through the senses and becomes transformed as
it were into their forms, it is said that the anta@hkara@na has
been transformed into a state (_v@rtti_) [Footnote 1]. As soon as the
anta@hkara@na has assumed the shape or form of the object of its
knowledge, the ignorance (_ajnana_) with reference to that object is
removed, and thereupon the steady light of the pure consciousness
(_cit_) shows the object which was so long hidden by
ignorance. The appearance or the perception of an object
is thus the self-shining of the cit through a v@rtti of a form
resembling an object of knowledge. This therefore pre-supposes
that by the action of ajnana, pure consciousness or being
is in a state of diverse kinds of modifications. In spite of
the cit underlying all this diversified objective world which is
but the transformation of ignorance (ajnana), the former cannot
manifest itself by itself, for the creations being of ignorance
they are but sustained by modifications of ignorance. The
diversified objects of the world are but transformations of
the principle of ajnana which is neither real nor unreal. It
is the nature of ajnana that it veils its own creations. Thus
on each of the objects created by the ajnana by its creating
(_vik@sepa_) capacity there is a veil by its veiling (avara@na) capacity.
But when any object comes in direct touch with anta@hkara@na
through the senses the anta@hkara@na becomes transformed into
the form of the object, and this leads to the removal of the veil
on that particular ajnana form--the object, and as the self-shining
cit is shining through the particular ajnana state, we
have what is called the perception of the thing. Though there is
in reality no such distinction as the inner and the outer yet the
ajnana has created such illusory distinctions as individual souls
and the external world of objects the distinctions of time, space,

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Vedanta does not regard manas (mind) as a sense (indriya). The
same anta@hkara@na, according to its diverse functions, is called manas,
buddhi, aha@mkara, and citta. In its functions as doubt it is called
manas, as originating definite cognitions it is called buddhi. As
presenting the notion of an ego in consciousness aha@mkara, and as
producing memory citta. These four represent the different modifications
or states (v@rtti) of the same entity (which in itself is but a special
kind of modification of ajnana as anta@hkara@na).]

473

etc. and veiled these forms. Perception leads to the temporary
and the partial breaking of the veil over specific ajnana forms
so that there is a temporary union of the cit as underlying the
subject and the object through the broken veil. Perception on
the subjective side is thus defined as the union or undifferentiation
(_abheda_) of the subjective consciousness with the objective
consciousness comprehending the sensible objects through the
specific mental states
(_tattadindriyayogyavi@sayavacchinnacaitanyabhinnatvam
tattadakaravi@sayavacchinnajnanasya tattadams'e pratyak@satvam_).
This union in perception means that the objective has at that
moment no separate existence from the subjective consciousness of
the perceiver. The consciousness manifesting through the anta@hkara@na
is called jivasak@si.

Inference (_anumana_), according to Vedanta, is made by our
notion of concomitance (_vyaptijnana_) between two things, acting
through specific past impressions (_sa@mskara_). Thus when I see
smoke on a hill, my previous notion of the concomitance of smoke
with fire becomes roused as a subconscious impression, and I
infer that there is fire on the hill. My knowledge of the hill and
the smoke is by direct perception. The notion of concomitance
revived in the subconscious only establishes the connection between
the smoke and the fire. The notion of concomitance is
generated by the perception of two things together, when no
case of the failure of concomitance is known (_vyabhicarajnana_)
regarding the subject. The notion of concomitance being altogether
subjective, the Vedantist does not emphasize the necessity
of perceiving the concomitance in a large number of cases (_bhuyodars'anam
sak@rddars'anam veti vis'e@so nadara@niya@h_). Vedanta is
not anxious to establish any material validity for the inference,
but only subjective and formal validity. A single perception of
concomitance may in certain cases generate the notion of the
concomitance of one thing with another when no contradictory
instance is known. It is immaterial with the Vedanta whether this
concomitance is experienced in one case or in hundreds of cases.
The method of agreement in presence is the only form of concomitance
(_anvayavyapti_) that the Vedanta allows. So the
Vedanta discards all the other kinds of inference that Nyaya
supported, viz. _anvayavyatireki_ (by joining agreement in presence
with agreement in absence), _kevalanvayi_ (by universal agreement
where no test could be applied of agreement in absence) and

474

_kevalavyatireki_ (by universal agreement in absence). Vedanta
advocates three premisses, viz. (1) _pratijna_ (the hill is fiery);
(2) _hetu_ (because it has smoke) and (3) _d@rs@tanta_ (as in the
kitchen) instead of the five propositions that Nyaya maintained [Footnote
ref 1]. Since one case of concomitance is regarded by Vedanta as
being sufficient for making an inference it holds that seeing the
one case of appearance (silver in the conch-shell) to be false,
we can infer that all things (except Brahman) are false (_Brahmabhinnam
sarvam mithya Brahmabhinnatvat yedevam tadevam yatha s'uktirupyam_).
First premiss (_pratijna_) all else excepting Brahman is false; second
premiss (_hetu_) since all is different from Brahman; third premiss
(_dr@s@tanta_) whatever is so is so as the silver in the conch [Footnote
ref 2].

Atman, Jiva, Is'vara, Ekajivavada and D@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada.

We have many times spoken of truth or reality as self-luminous
(_svayamprakas'a). But what does this mean? Vedanta
defines it as that which is never the object of a knowing act but
is yet immediate and direct with us (_avedyatve sati
aparoksavyavaharayogyatvam_). Self-luminosity thus means the
capacity of being ever present in all our acts of consciousness
without in any way being an object of consciousness. Whenever
anything is described as an object of consciousness, its character
as constituting its knowability is a quality, which may or may not
be present in it, or may be present at one time and absent at another.
This makes it dependent on some other such entity which can
produce it or manifest it. Pure consciousness differs from all its
objects in this that it is never dependent on anything else for
its manifestation, but manifests all other objects such as the jug,
the cloth, etc. If consciousness should require another consciousness
to manifest it, then that might again require another, and
that another, and so on _ad infinitum_ (_anavastha_). If consciousness
did not manifest itself at the time of the object-manifestation,
then even on seeing or knowing a thing one might doubt if he
had seen or known it. It is thus to be admitted that consciousness
(_anubhuti_) manifests itself and thereby maintains the appearance

_________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Vedanta would have either pratijna, hetu and udaharana, or
udahara@na, upanaya and nigamana, and not all the five of Nyaya, viz.
pratijna, hetu, udahara@na, upanaya and nigamana.]

[Footnote 2: Vedantic notions of the pramana of upamana, arthapatti,
s'abda and anupalabdhi, being similar to the mimam@sa view, do not
require to be treated here separately.]

475

of all our world experience. This goes directly against
the jnatata theory of Kumarila that consciousness was not immediate
but was only inferable from the manifesting quality
(_jnatata_) of objects when they are known in consciousness.

Now Vedanta says that this self-luminous pure consciousness
is the same as the self. For it is only self which is not the object
of any knowledge and is yet immediate and ever present in
consciousness. No one doubts about his own self, because it
is of itself manifested along with all states of knowledge. The
self itself is the revealer of all objects of knowledge, but is
never itself the object of knowledge, for what appears as the
perceiving of self as object of knowledge is but association
comprehended under the term aha@mkara (ego). The real self is
identical with the pure manifesting unity of all consciousness.
This real self called the atman is not the same as the jiva or
individual soul, which passes through the diverse experiences
of worldly life. Is'vara also must be distinguished from this
highest atman or Brahman. We have already seen that many
Vedantists draw a distinction between maya and avidya. Maya
is that aspect of ajnana by which only the best attributes
are projected, whereas avidya is that aspect by which impure
qualities are projected. In the former aspect the functions are
more of a creative, generative (_vik@sepa_) type, whereas in the latter
veiling (_avara@na_) characteristics are most prominent. The relation
of the cit or pure intelligence, the highest self, with maya and
avidya (also called ajnana) was believed respectively to explain the
phenomenal Is'vara and the phenomenal jiva or individual. This
relation is conceived in two ways, namely as upadhi or pratibimba,
and avaccheda. The conception of pratibimba or reflection is
like the reflection of the sun in the water where the image,
though it has the same brilliance as the sun, yet undergoes
the effect of the impurity and movements of the water. The
sun remains ever the same in its purity untouched by the
impurities from which the image sun suffers. The sun may
be the same but it may be reflected in different kinds of
water and yield different kinds of images possessing different
characteristics and changes which though unreal yet phenomenally
have all the appearance of reality. The other conception
of the relation is that when we speak of akas'a (space) in the jug
or of akas'a in the room. The akas'a in reality does not suffer

476

any modification in being within the jug or within the room. In
reality it is all-pervasive and is neither limited (_avachinna_)
within the jug or the room, but is yet conceived as being limited
by the jug or by the room. So long as the jug remains, the
akas'a limited within it will remain as separate from the akas'a
limited within the room.

Of the Vedantists who accept the reflection analogy the followers
of N@rsi@mhas'rama think that when the pure cit is reflected
in the maya, Is'vara is phenomenally produced, and when in the
avidya the individual or jiva. Sarvajnatma however does not
distinguish between the maya and the avidya, and thinks that
when the cit is reflected in the avidya in its total aspect as cause,
we get Is'vara, and when reflected in the anta@hkara@na--a product
of the avidya--we have jiva or individual soul.

Jiva or individual means the self in association with the ego
and other personal experiences, i.e. phenomenal self, which feels,
suffers and is affected by world-experiences. In jiva also three
stages are distinguished; thus when during deep sleep the anta@hkara@na
is submerged, the self perceives merely the ajnana and the
jiva in this state is called prajna or anandamaya. In the dream-state
the self is in association with a subtle body and is called
taijasa. In the awakened state the self as associated with a
subtle and gross body is called vis'va. So also the self in its pure
state is called Brahman, when associated with maya it is called
Is'vara, when associated with the fine subtle element of matter as
controlling them, it is called hira@nyagarbha; when with the gross
elements as the ruler or controller of them it is called vira@t
puru@sa.

The jiva in itself as limited by its avidya is often spoken of
as paramarthika (real), when manifested through the sense and
the ego in the waking states as vyavaharika (phenomenal), and
when in the dream states as dream-self, pratibha@sika (illusory).

Prakas'atma and his followers think that since ajnana is one
there cannot be two separate reflections such as jiva and Is'vara;
but it is better to admit that jiva is the image of Is'vara in the
ajnana. The totality of Brahma-cit in association with maya is
Is'vara, and this when again reflected through the ajnana gives
us the jiva. The manifestation of the jiva is in the anta@hkara@na
as states of knowledge. The jiva thus in reality is Is'vara and
apart from jiva and Is'vara there is no other separate existence of

477

Brahma-caitanya. Jiva being the image of Is'vara is thus dependent
on him, but when the limitations of jiva are removed
by right knowledge, the jiva is the same Brahman it always was.

Those who prefer to conceive the relation as being of the
avaccheda type hold that reflection (pratibimba) is only possible
of things which have colour, and therefore jiva is cit limited (avacchinna)
by the anta@hkara@na (mind). Is'vara is that which is beyond
it; the diversity of anta@hkara@nas accounts for the diversity
of the jivas. It is easy however to see that these discussions are
not of much fruit from the point of view of philosophy in determining
or comprehending the relation of Is'vara and jiva. In the
Vedanta system Is'vara has but little importance, for he is but a
phenomenal being; he may be better, purer, and much more
powerful than we, but yet he is as much phenomenal as any of
us. The highest truth is the self, the reality, the Brahman, and
both jiva and Is'vara are but illusory impositions on it. Some
Vedantists hold that there is but one jiva and one body, and
that all the world as well as all the jivas in it are merely his
imaginings. These dream jivas and the dream world will
continue so long as that super-jiva continues to undergo his
experiences; the world-appearance and all of us imaginary
individuals, run our course and salvation is as much imaginary
salvation as our world-experience is an imaginary experience of
the imaginary jivas. The cosmic jiva is alone the awakened jiva
and all the rest are but his imaginings. This is known as the
doctrine of ekajiva (one-soul).

The opposite of this doctrine is the theory held by some
Vedantists that there are many individuals and the world-appearance
has no permanent illusion for all people, but each person
creates for himself his own illusion, and there is no objective
datum which forms the common ground for the illusory perception
of all people; just as when ten persons see in the darkness a
rope and having the illusion of a snake there, run away, and
agree in their individual perceptions that they have all seen
the same snake, though each really had his own illusion and
there was no snake at all. According to this view the illusory
perception of each happens for him subjectively and has no
corresponding objective phenomena as its ground. This must
be distinguished from the normal Vedanta view which holds
that objectively phenomena are also happening, but that these

478

are illusory only in the sense that they will not last permanently
and have thus only a temporary and relative existence in comparison
with the truth or reality which is ever the same constant
and unchangeable entity in all our perceptions and in all world-appearance.
According to the other view phenomena are not
objectively existent but are only subjectively imagined; so that
the jug I see had no existence before I happened to have the
perception that there was the jug; as soon as the jug illusion
occurred to me I said that there was the jug, but it did not exist
before. As soon as I had the perception there was the illusion,
and there was no other reality apart from the illusion. It is therefore
called the theory of d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada, i.e. the theory that the
subjective perception is the creating of the objects and that there
are no other objective phenomena apart from subjective perceptions.
In the normal Vedanta view however the objects of
the world are existent as phenomena by the sense-contact with
which the subjective perceptions are created. The objective
phenomena in themselves are of course but modifications of ajnana,
but still these phenomena of the ajnana are there as the common
ground for the experience of all. This therefore has an objective
epistemology whereas the d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada has no proper
epistemology, for the experiences of each person are determined
by his own subjective avidya and previous impressions as modifications
of the avidya. The d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada theory approaches
nearest to the Vijnanavada Buddhism, only with this difference
that while Buddhism does not admit of any permanent being
Vedanta admits the Brahman, the permanent unchangeable
reality as the only truth, whereas the illusory and momentary
perceptions are but impositions on it.

The mental and physical phenomena are alike in this, that
both are modifications of ajnana. It is indeed difficult to
comprehend the nature of ajnana, though its presence in consciousness
can be perceived, and though by dialectic criticism
all our most well-founded notions seem to vanish away and
become self-contradictory and indefinable. Vedanta explains
the reason of this difficulty as due to the fact that all these
indefinable forms and names can only be experienced as modes
of the real, the self-luminous. Our innate error which we continue
from beginningless time consists in this, that the real in
its full complete light is ever hidden from us, and the glimpse

479

that we get of it is always through manifestations of forms
and names; these phenomenal forms and names are undefinable,
incomprehensible, and unknowable in themselves, but under
certain conditions they are manifested by the self-luminous real,
and at the time they are so manifested they seem to have a
positive being which is undeniable. This positive being is only
the highest being, the real which appears as the being of those forms
and names. A lump of clay may be moulded into a plate or a
cup, but the plate-form or the cup-form has no existence or being
apart from the being of the clay; it is the being of the clay that
is imposed on the diverse forms which also then seem to have
being in themselves. Our illusion thus consists in mutually misattributing
the characteristics of the unreal forms--the modes of
ajnana and the real being. As this illusion is the mode of all our
experience and its very essence, it is indeed difficult for us to
conceive of the Brahman as apart from the modes of ajnana.
Moreover such is the nature of ajnanas that they are knowable
only by a false identification of them with the self-luminous
Brahman or atman. Being as such is the highest truth, the
Brahman. The ajnana states are not non-being in the sense of
nothing of pure negation (_abhava_), but in the sense that they are
not being. Being that is the self-luminous illuminates non-being,
the ajnana, and this illumination means nothing more than a
false identification of being with non-being. The forms of ajnana
if they are to be known must be associated with pure consciousness,
and this association means an illusion, superimposition, and
mutual misattribution. But apart from pure consciousness these
cannot be manifested or known, for it is pure consciousness alone
that is self-luminous. Thus when we try to know the ajnana
states in themselves as apart from the atman we fail in a dilemma,
for knowledge means illusory superimposition or illusion, and
when it is not knowledge they evidently cannot be known. Thus
apart from its being a factor in our illusory experience no other
kind of its existence is known to us. If ajnana had been a non-entity
altogether it could never come at all, if it were a positive
entity then it would never cease to be; the ajnana thus is a
mysterious category midway between being and non-being and
undefinable in every way; and it is on account of this that it is
called _tattvanyatvabhyam anirvacya_ or undefinable and undeterminable
either as real or unreal. It is real in the sense that it is

480

a necessary postulate of our phenomenal experience and unreal
in its own nature, for apart from its connection with consciousness
it is incomprehensible and undefinable. Its forms even while they
are manifested in consciousness are self-contradictory and incomprehensible
as to their real nature or mutual relation, and
comprehensible only so far as they are manifested in consciousness,
but apart from these no rational conception of them can be
formed. Thus it is impossible to say anything about the ajnana
(for no knowledge of it is possible) save so far as manifested in
consciousness and depending on this the D@r@s@tis@r@s@tivadins asserted
that our experience was inexplicably produced under the influence
of avidya and that beyond that no objective common ground
could be admitted. But though this has the general assent of
Vedanta and is irrefutable in itself, still for the sake of explaining
our common sense view (_pratikarmavyavasatha_) we may
think that we have an objective world before us as the common
field of experience. We can also imagine a scheme of things and
operations by which the phenomenon of our experience may be
interpreted in the light of the Vedanta metaphysics.

The subject can be conceived in three forms: firstly as the
atman, the one highest reality, secondly as jiva or the atman as
limited by its psychosis, when the psychosis is not differentiated
from the atman, but atman is regarded as identical with the psychosis
thus appearing as a living and knowing being, as _jivasak@si_ or
perceiving consciousness, or the aspect in which the jiva comprehends,
knows, or experiences; thirdly the anta@hkara@na psychosis or
mind which is an inner centre or bundle of avidya manifestations,
just as the outer world objects are exterior centres of
avidya phenomena or objective entities. The anta@hkara@na is not
only the avidya capable of supplying all forms to our present experiences,
but it also contains all the tendencies and modes of
past impressions of experience in this life or in past lives. The
anta@hkara@na is always turning the various avidya modes of it into
the jivasak@si (jiva in its aspect as illuminating mental states), and
these are also immediately manifested, made known, and transformed
into experience. These avidya states of the anta@hkara@na
are called its v@rttis or states. The specific peculiarity of the
v@rttiajnanas is this that only in these forms can they be superimposed
upon pure consciousness, and thus be interpreted as states of consciousness
and have their indefiniteness or cover removed. The

481

forms of ajnana remain as indefinite and hidden or veiled only
so long as they do not come into relation to these v@rttis of
anta@hkara@na, for the ajnana can be destroyed by the cit only in the
form of a v@rtti, while in all other forms the ajnana veils the cit
from manifestation. The removal of ajnana-v@rttis of the anta@hkara@na
or the manifestation of v@rtti-jnana is nothing but this, that
the anta@hkara@na states of avidya are the only states of ajnana
which can be superimposed upon the self-luminous atman
(_adhyasa_, false attribution). The objective world consists of the
avidya phenomena with the self as its background. Its objectivity
consists in this that avidya in this form cannot be superimposed
on the self-luminous cit but exists only as veiling the cit. These
avidya phenomena may be regarded as many and diverse, but in
all these forms they serve only to veil the cit and are beyond
consciousness. It is only when they come in contact with the avidya
phenomena as anta@hkara@na states that they coalesce with the
avidya states and render themselves objects of consciousness or
have their veil of avara@na removed. It is thus assumed that in
ordinary perceptions of objects such as jug, etc. the anta@hkara@na
goes out of the man's body (_s'ariramadhyat_) and coming in
touch with the jug becomes transformed into the same form,
and as soon as this transformation takes place the cit which
is always steadily shining illuminates the jug-form or the jug.
The jug phenomena in the objective world could not be manifested
(though these were taking place on the background of
the same self-luminous Brahman or atman as forms of the highest
truth of my subjective consciousness) because the ajnana phenomena
in these forms serve to veil their illuminator, the self-luminous.
It was only by coming into contact with these phenomena
that the anta@hkara@na could be transformed into corresponding
states and that the illumination dawned which at once revealed
the anta@hkara@na states and the objects with which these states or
v@rttis had coalesced. The consciousness manifested through the
v@rttis alone has the power of removing the ajnana veiling the
cit. Of course there are no actual distinctions of inner or outer,
or the cit within me and the cit without me. These are only of
appearance and due to avidya. And it is only from the point of
view of appearance that we suppose that knowledge of objects
can only dawn when the inner cit and the outer cit unite together
through the anta@hkara@nav@rtti, which makes the external objects

482

translucent as it were by its own translucence, removes the ajnana
which was veiling the external self-luminous cit and reveals the
object phenomena by the very union of the cit as reflected
through it and the cit as underlying the object phenomena. The
pratyak@sa-prama or right knowledge by perception is the cit, the
pure consciousness, reflected through the v@rtti and identical with
the cit as the background of the object phenomena revealed by
it. From the relative point of view we may thus distinguish three
consciousnesses: (1) consciousness as the background of objective
phenomena, (2) consciousness as the background of the jiva
or pramata, the individual, (3) consciousness reflected in the v@rtti
of the anta@hkara@na; when these three unite perception is effected.

Prama or right knowledge means in Vedanta the acquirement
of such new knowledge as has not been contradicted by
experience (_abadhita_). There is thus no absolute definition of
truth. A knowledge acquired can be said to be true only so long
as it is not contradicted. Thus the world appearance though it
is very true now, may be rendered false, when this is contradicted
by right knowledge of Brahman as the one reality. Thus the
knowledge of the world appearance is true now, but not true
absolutely. The only absolute truth is the pure consciousness
which is never contradicted in any experience at any time. The
truth of our world-knowledge is thus to be tested by finding out
whether it will be contradicted at any stage of world experience
or not. That which is not contradicted by later experience is to
be regarded as true, for all world knowledge as a whole will be
contradicted when Brahma-knowledge is realized.

The inner experiences of pleasure and pain also are generated
by a false identification of anta@hkara@na transformations as
pleasure or pain with the self, by virtue of which are generated
the perceptions, "I am happy," or "I am sorry." In continuous
perception of anything for a certain time as an object
or as pleasure, etc. the mental state or v@rtti is said to last in the
same way all the while so long as any other new form is not
taken up by the anta@hkara@na for the acquirement of any new
knowledge. In such case when I infer that there is fire on the
hill that I see, the hill is an object of perception, for the anta@hkara@na
v@rtti is one with it, but that there is fire in it is a matter
of inference, for the anta@hkara@na v@rtti cannot be in touch with the
fire; so in the same experience there may be two modes of

483

mental modification, as perception in seeing the hill, and as
inference in inferring the fire in the hill. In cases of acquired
perception, as when on seeing sandal wood I think that it is
odoriferous sandal wood, it is pure perception so far as the sandal
wood is concerned, it is inference or memory so far as I assert it
to be odoriferous. Vedanta does not admit the existence of the
relation called _samavaya_ (inherence) or _jati_ (class notion); and
so does not distinguish perception as a class as distinct from the
other class called inference, and holds that both perception and

Book of the day: