Chapter 8: Light on the Internal Self
The Deepest Self in Man
The body is illumined by a twofold consciousness in the same manner as a wall, for example, can be illumined by two types of light. Just as a wall can be lighted up directly by the sun as well as by the reflection of the sun through a mirror, and we can observe the natural sunlight on the wall existing in the middle of the different patches of reflected light, so also we can observe the natural consciousness of the Atman between different thoughts and feelings, in the short span of time when one thought subsides and another thought has not yet arisen. Generally speaking, the human mind gets attached to certain objects, and its perception is always coloured by the nature of the object to such an extent that there is no time left for the mind to contemplate the Consciousness as it is in itself, unconnected with the objects. It is possible by careful and thorough investigation and psychological processes to differentiate between the factors that belong to the object and those that belong to Pure Consciousness. In the waking, the dreaming, as well as in the deep sleep states, it is possible to make this analysis by which we are enabled to dissect consciousness from the object. An object is known by the mind with the assistance of Chidabhasa-chaitanya (consciousness reflected through the intellect, or the psyche), and it is by this that we know there is such a thing as an object or a form, but the Consciousness behind the ‘I’, which is at the background of even the object consciousness is Brahma-chaitanya (Absolute Consciousness), designated here as Kutastha (internal Self). The knowledge, “This is a body” is brought about by the Chidabhasa, and the knowledge, “I know the body” has its reference to Kutastha. Even the knowledge of the absence of an object is based on the Consciousness of the Kutastha, and it is this very Consciousness that enables, later on, the particular form of perception in relation to an object. As an arrow may be sharpened with a pointed steel-head for the sake of hitting objects, the Buddhi, or the intellect, has in itself the projecting form of Consciousness of the Chidabhasa. It is when this Chidabhasa begins to act that we have object-consciousness; otherwise there is ignorance of it, the Consciousness not being particularised. Both the unknown and known conditions of an object are, thus, finally rooted in Brahman-Consciousness, as Kutastha-chaitanya. The intellect by itself cannot know an object, because it is, after all, a modification of Prakriti (cosmic matter). Just as matter cannot know matter, the intellect cannot know an object. What is known is material and what knows is Consciousness. The freedom of the Consciousness lies in its Self-realisation that it is independent and absolute and is not really tainted by the nature of any object at all. (Verses 1-9).
The Nature of Perception
The perception of an object is due to the activity of the mind, or the intellect, in regard to it, together with the Chidabhasa attending on it. It is these that become responsible for an active perception of the object. It is not the General Consciousness of Brahman but the reflected consciousness, Chidabhasa, that particularises knowledge. As Brahman is present always, it cannot be said that it is manifesting itself only during the perception of an object. It is the Chidabhasa that rises and falls, but Brahma-Chaitanya is always there, and has no beginning or end. There is a verse quoted from Suresvaracharya (a pupil of Sri Sankara) to the effect that Consciousness which manifests itself as an illuminating factor in all external perceptions is really the ultimate object to be known. Here, while Suresvara regards Consciousness as the ultimate end of endeavour, what he means is that the ultimate Consciousness, for all perception, being Brahman itself, it is the Goal of all aspirations, but he does not mean that this Consciousness is the Chidabhasa, because, the latter is absolutely dependent upon the Kutastha. This has been mentioned also by Sankara in his Upadesasahasri. When there is a manifestation of the Chidabhasa there is external perception, but the Chidabhasa is itself illumined by another Consciousness as even the absence of any particular object is known by it. The mental modifications, the Chidabhasa and the object, all these three, are simultaneously illumined by the General Consciousness, but the Chidabhasa can illumine only the object. Thus, the distinction between the two is clear.
In the perception of an object, there is a twofold consciousness, one particular and another general. Some schools of thought regard the General Consciousness as Knowledge of knowledge or Knowledge of perception, calling it Anuvyavasaya. The knowledge, “This is an object” is due to the activity of Chidabhasa, and the knowledge, “I know the object” or “the object is known by me,” is due to the existence of Brahman. This distinction between the particular and the General Consciousness made, thus, in external perception, is also to be made in internal perceptions. The Chidabhasa lights up the modifications of the psychological instruments in the form of the ‘I’, as well as its ramifications such as desire, anger, and so on, as fire can heat up an iron ball. Just as a red hot iron ball can illumine itself, but does not illuminate other objects, so do the psychoses within (Vrittis) illumine themselves, being enlightened by the Chidabhasa, but do not directly illumine other objects. These psychoses within come in a series as bits of a process, with intervals between the different links of the process, and do not flow continuously. Also, they get dissolved in sleep, swoon and Samadhi (Super-Consciousness). The intervals between the various processes of thought as well as the absence of thought itself are illumined by an Unchangeable Consciousness, which is the Kutastha, as in the perception of an external object; the object is known distinctly and the General Consciousness is not so known. The psychoses as thoughts and feelings etc. are known more clearly than the General Consciousness of the Kutastha which is continuously present, whether thoughts come or go. In the case of the psychoses of the Antahkarana (internal organ) there is no question of known-ness and unknown-ness, because they are self-luminous and, hence, there is no chance of their either knowing themselves as objects or not knowing themselves at all. This happens also in the case of inert objects where Consciousness is absolutely absent and in which case there cannot be any such thing as known-ness. The subject does not become an object where either Consciousness is totally absent or where there is self-luminosity. In the two types of awareness mentioned, the particular one which gets itself connected to objects has a beginning and an end, and because of its changeful nature, it is different from the General Consciousness behind it, which is immutable and is, therefore, called Kutastha. There has to be posited a witness of the modifications of the mind; otherwise they cannot be known even to exist, and as it is in the case of the reflection of a face in a mirror, where the mirror is the medium and the face is the original with its reflection, in the case of the Self, too, the Anthahkarana is the medium, the reflection is the Chidabhasa, and the Atma, or Kutastha, is the original.
It is not that the Atman by its being at the back of even the process of transmigration undergoes any change. The limitation referred to here as the Chidabhasa is not merely like the limitation of the vast space by the walls of a jar for example, because the Atman does not become a Jiva, or the individual, merely by an enclosure. We cannot say that the Atman has become the Jiva, just because we have raised some walls around with material substance. The difference is that in the case of the Jiva, the Buddhi is transparent, but mere transparency is not the sole conditioning factor, because there may not be any difference in certain cases even when there is transparency such as in a glass measure, which, after all, can contain only as much quantity of grain as wooden measure. What makes the essential difference is not merely the limitation but the reduction of quality by quantity by reflection, and it is here that we notice a difference between the original and the reflection. We call that a reflection which appears to be like original, but does not have really the characteristics of the original.
The Individual Nature
In luminosity the Chidabhasa resembles the Atman, and it is for this reason that the Jivas mistake themselves for reality and mistake the objects of the world also for similar realities. The difference, however, is that the Atman is never attached, because it is universal, while the Chidabhasa is not. The Atman never undergoes transformation, because it is absolute, while the Chidabhasa does. The internal psychological organ conditions the Chidabhasa and the latter cannot exist without it. The former is different from the latter because of its material nature and is distinguished from the latter which has the characteristic of luminosity. In the scriptures, especially the Upanishad, it has been established by various explanations that the Atman is different from the Buddhi, and is not limited by it. The limitation is due to the variety of the constitution of the Antahkarana, not because of the variety in the original which is the Atman. The manifold that we observe can be traced back to the variety in the reflecting media, though what is reflected is one and the same.
In the Aitareya Upanishad, it is stated that it is the Atman that enters into the various individuals and gives them the character of a Jiva. The Jiva, thus has a twofold nature, that which limits, namely, the Antahkarana, and that which shines, namely, the Atman. The Upanishad says that the Atman enters into the variety of creation and the latter become the Jivas, on account of their partaking of the Consciousness and Existence aspects of the Atman. Hence, the formation of the Buddhi and the Antahkarana is a subsequent act in creation, not originally connected with the Atman. But how the Absolute, All pervading One manages it is wonderful, indeed. This wonder is similar to the wonder of the whole of creation. Creation, being relative to the Jivas, cannot be regarded as an ultimate truth, and the entry of Brahman into the Jivas, being a part of the process of creation, remains, then, a mystery.
Sage Yajnavalkya mentions, as we have it in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, that the Jiva rises by being connected with the various limiting agents, such as the elements, body, mind, etc., and ceases to be when these limiting agents cease to be. The sage says that there is no consciousness after the destruction of individuality, meaning thereby that there cannot be externalised consciousness in the state of salvation of the soul in Brahman, where there is no duality in order that one may perceive another. The Atman is declared as indestructible and is equated with the Kutastha-Atman. While the Atman is supposed to operate in the Jiva by an apparent contact with the elements, the Jivahood is destroyed in Moksha, or final liberation, but not the essence of the Jiva, which is the Atman. It is the Jiva that undergoes transmigration in different worlds; the Atman is unaffected. How does one know that one is Brahman when Jivahood is destroyed? It is quite obvious, because, knowledge is not the prerogative of the Jiva, and as a matter of fact, it is only a semblance of knowledge. It shines, in fact, in borrowed feathers, and has no consciousness of its own. The identity of the Jiva with Brahman is established by a method known as Samana-Adhikaranya, which means the identity of one thing with another that can be known only when the obstructing characters of the things identified are removed. In the present case it means the union of the Jiva with Brahman, not literally in its present form, but essentially after the Jiva is divested of its limiting features such as the three bodies; but the identity of the Kutasha-Atman with Brahman is direct and primary, and, hence, it is called Mukhya-Samanadhikaranya, or primary identity, like the identity of space within a vessel with the all-pervading space. Just as one may mistake in the dusk a standing post for a human being, but after going near it and carefully observing it one generally knows that it is a post alone and not a man, so, in the darkness of our ignorance we have mistaken Brahman for the Jiva, but by a careful investigation into the subject, and observing the situation correctly, we will realise that the Jiva is only an appearance and it is really Brahman, after all. When this realisation takes place, there is an immediate destruction of the false notion of doership, enjoyership, etc., which are attributed to the Jiva. The identity of the world with Brahman, or of the Jiva with the Kutastha-Atman, is to be understood in the sense of the Badhasamanadhikaranya, or sublative identity, mentioned above. When the names and forms are separated from the essence, the essence is known to be Brahman.
There is the question of the identity of the Jiva with Brahman by negating certain attributes, only if we regard the Jiva from the point of view of its essence, as Consciousness. If we define Jiva as a limited individual with a reflected consciousness, etc., then naturally, in that state, it cannot be identified with Brahman, and to effect identification there should be the abandoning of its limiting characters. If it is regarded as Consciousness in its innermost being, then there is this direct identity of substratum. When the Jiva is investigated into and its true nature is researched, then it will be known that it is the same as what we call Kutastha, and in this condition it is immediately one with Brahman. Kutastha and Brahman mean one and the same thing. That is called Kutastha which is Consciousness acting as the substratum of the appearance of the Jiva with the appendages as body, mind, senses etc. Brahman is the same Consciousness existing as the substratum of the whole cosmos. When the entire cosmos is something super-imposed on Brahman, what to speak of this Chidabhasa, which is only a part of creation? We make a distinction between Isvara (God) and Jiva (individual) by introducing a difference between the whole and the part, namely, the universe and the body. The one Brahman in relation to the universe is called Isvara, and it alone in relation to the body is called Jiva. The substance is one, Consciousness is one, appearances are two. Jivahood, therefore, is ultimately to be sublated, it being an appearance, because it is a false constitution made up of the erroneous notions of doership, enjoyership, etc., and belongs to the world and the semblance of consciousness borrowed from the Atman.
What is this intellect and what is this Jiva? What is the Self, and what is the world? The inability to arrive at a clear definition regarding this issue, and the consequent activity to which one is driven, is called Samsara (worldly entanglement). He who knows the answer to these questions is a knower of Truth; he is the liberated one; such is the proclamation of the Vedanta texts. In spite of the decisions of the Upanishads, there are perverted intellects who raise false questions of a quibbling nature and involve themselves in tangles of logical arguments which have the appearance of reasonableness, but really are unreasonable. Such questions have been dealt with in detail in such polemical works (argumentative texts) as those of Sriharsha, Chitsukhacharya and Madhusudana Sarasvati. The Kutastha-Atman is the witness not only of the various modifications of the mind, but also of their absence, and also the state of aspiration for knowledge. As it is the basis of the appearance of the transient world which is untrue, it is called Truth; because it is the one light illuminating everything that is inert, it is called the Consciousness; and it is called Bliss because it is the most dear and lovable of all things. It is complete and perfect, because it has relations with everything and knows all things immediately. It is the Power of cosmic Maya that, by its properties of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, creates the distinctions among Isvara (God), Jiva (individual) and Jagat (world). As transparent things can reflect light in different ways, Ishvara and Jiva reflect the Consciousness of the Brahman in different degrees. Isvara and Jiva differ from the world of matter inasmuch as the latter is not open to the expression of Consciousness through it, Tamas (inertia) being predominant in it. As Ishvara and Jiva illumine things by means of the Consciousness present in them, we have to conclude that their essential nature is Consciousness alone. Maya, which is capable of working wonders, has really nothing impossible for it. Even when our own dreams can effect incredible differences, what to speak of Maya which has immense powers! However, it should not be thought that the Kutastha, too, is an effect of Maya, because there is no proof whatsoever to establish that it is included in Maya. It becomes necessary that we should accept the ultimate changeless Substratum, which itself is not involved in change, in order that even change can be known as such.
The Vedanta texts proclaim the essential substantiality of the Kutastha-Atman and do not tolerate the idea of anything opposed to it or the acceptance of anything that may be regarded as a second to it. Here, in the text, we expound the true meaning of the scripture and do not engage ourselves merely in dry argumentation. There is no true purpose served in mere sceptic doubts of the professional logician, and hence they are irrelevant to the subject on hand. The aspirant after liberation, therefore, should resort to the true import of the scripture, abandoning perverted arguments. The scripture declares that both Jiva and Isvara are created by the Cosmic Power, called Maya. From the time there was the Primeval Ideation of the Supreme Being, till the animation of every diversified thing in this world by the Consciousness of this Being, it is to be regarded as Isvara-srishti (God’s creation). From the time the waking state commenced till the freedom of the Jiva is achieved finally, it is Jiva-srishti (individual imagination). Things as they are in themselves are Isvara-srishti, and things invested with the psychological reactions of the various individuals are Jiva-srishti. Kutastha, however, is unattached, and does not undergo increase or decrease at any time. It has neither birth, nor death, nor decay. Thus should one contemplate Truth in one’s mind. From the point of view of the ultimate Truth, there is neither destruction of things nor their origination, neither bondage nor liberation, neither aspiration nor the aspirants, the Atman being one Self-completeness, unchanging and eternal. This Truth is unapproachable by mind and speech, and to awaken one to this Truth the scripture resorts to such means of explanation as the tentative acceptance of the distinctions of Isvara, Jiva and Jagat, and a subsequent transcendence of these concepts. Only that method of instruction should be considered as beneficial which is befitting the nature of the student and by which the student can have real knowledge in regard to the Atman. But the ignorant ones, not being able to grasp the true meaning of the scripture, wander about in ignorance and confusion. The discriminating one, having understood everything correctly, takes his stand on the ocean of Bliss. This Bliss of the Atman and its Consciousness and Existence are unaffected by the activities of Maya and the varieties of the creations of the world, as the sky is not affected when clouds shower rains. The Atman is Brahman, and suffice it to say that it is unaffected by the processes of creation, preservation and destruction associated with the universe and its contents. (Verses 10-76)