Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Nabhavadhikaranam: Topic 5 (Sutras 28-32)

Refutation of the Bauddha Idealist.

Nabhava upalabdheh II.2.28 (199)

The non-existence (of eternal things) cannot be maintained; on account of (our) consciousness (of them).

Na: not; Abhavah: non-existence; Upalabdheh: because they are perceived, because of perception, because we are conscious of them on account of their being experienced.

The argument against the Buddhistic theory is continued. From this Sutra begins the refutation of Buddhistic Idealists.

The doctrine of the Buddhist which affirms the momentary existence of external objects has been refuted. The Sutrakara or the author of the Sutras now proceeds to refute the doctrine of the Buddhistic school which affirms the momentariness of thought, which declares that only ideas exist and nothing else.

According to the Buddhistic Idealists (Vijnanavadins), the external world is non-existent. They maintain that every phenomenon resolves itself into consciousness and idea without any reality corresponding to it. This is not correct. The external phenomena are not non-existent as they are actually witnessed by our senses of perception. The external world is an object of experience through the senses. It cannot therefore, be non-existent like the horns of a hare.

The Vijnanavadins say: No external object exists apart from consciousness. There is impossibility for the existence of outward things. Because if outward objects are admitted, they must be either atoms or aggregates of atoms such as chairs, pots, etc. But atoms cannot be comprehended under the ideas of chair, etc. It is not possible for cognition to represent things as minute as atoms. There is no recognition of atoms and so the objects could not be atoms. They could not be atomic combinations because we cannot affirm if such combinations are one with atoms or separate therefrom.

According to the Vijnanavadins or the Yogachara system the Vijnana Skandha or idea alone is real. An object like pot or chair which is perceived outside is nothing more than ideas. The Vijnana or idea modifies itself into the form of an object. All worldly activities can go on with mere ideas, just as in dream all activities are performed with the thought objects. Ideas only exist. It is useless to assume that the object is something different from the idea. It is possible to have practical thought and intercourse without external objects, just as it is done in dream. All practical purposes are well rendered possible by admitting the reality of ideas only, because no good purpose is served by additional assumption of external objects corresponding to internal ideas.

The mind assumes different shapes owing to the different Vasanas or desire-impressions submerged in it. Just as these Vasanas create the dream world, so the external world in the waking state is also the result of Vasanas. The assumption of an external object is unnecessary. We do not see any separation of cognition and object. In dream we cognise without objects. Even so in the waking state there could be cognition without objects. Our manifoldness of Vasanas can account for such cognitions.

Perception in the waking state is like a dream. The ideas that are present during a dream appear in the form of subject and object, although there is no external object. Hence, the ideas of chair, pot which occur in our waking state are likewise independent of external objects, because they also imply ideas.

This argument is fallacious. When you see a chair or a pot how can you deny it? When you eat, your hunger is appeased. How can you doubt the hunger or the food? You say that there is no object apart from your cognition on account of your capriciousness. Why do you not see a chair as a pot? If an object is a mere mental creation like a dream why should the mind locate it outside?

The Buddhist may say "I do not affirm that I have no consciousness of an object. I also feel that the object appears as an external thing, but what I affirm is this that I am always conscious of nothing directly save my own ideas. My idea alone shines as something external. Consequently the appearance of the external things is the result of my own ideas."

We reply that the very fact of your consciousness proves that there is an external object giving rise to the idea of externality. That the external object exists apart from consciousness has necessarily to be accepted on the ground of the nature of consciousness itself. No one when perceiving a chair or a pot is conscious of his perception only, but all are conscious of chair or a pot and the like as objects of perception.

You (Vijnanavadins) say that the internal consciousness or idea appears as something external. This already indicates that the external world is real. If it were not real, your saying like something external would be meaningless. The word 'like' shows that you admit the reality of the external objects. Otherwise you would not have used this word. Because no one makes a comparison with a thing which is an absolute unreality. No one says that Ramakrishna is like the son of a barren woman.

An idea like a lamp requires an ulterior intellectual principle or illuminer to render it manifest. Vijnana has a beginning and an end. It also belongs to the category of the known. The knower is as indispensable of cognitions as of objects.

The Buddhist idealist, while contending that there is nothing outside the mind, forgets the fallacy of the argument. If the world, as they argue, were only an outward expression of internal ideas, then the world also would be just mind. But the Buddhists argue that the mind, which is ostensibly in the individual, is also the world outside. Here the question arises: How does the idea of there being nothing outside arise without the mind itself being outside? The consciousness that nothing exists outside cannot arise if there is really nothing outside. Hence the Buddhist Vijnanavada doctrine is defective.

When the Buddhists came to know of the illogicality of their concept, they modified their doctrine saying that the mind referred to here is not the individual mind but the cosmic mind, known as Alaya-Vijnana, which is the repository of all individual minds in a potential form. Here the Buddhist stumbles on the Vedanta doctrine that the world is a manifestation of the Universal Mind.

Vaidharmyaccha na svapnadivat II.2.29 (200)

And on account of the difference in nature (in consciousness between the waking and the dreaming state, the experience of the waking state) is not like dreams, etc., etc.

Vaidharmyat: on account of difference of nature, because of dissimilarity; Cha: and, also; Na: not; Svapnadivat: like dreams etc.

The argument against the Buddhistic theory is continued.

The waking state is not like dream, etc., because of dissimilarity. The ideas of the waking state are not like those of a dream on account of their difference of nature.

The Buddhists say: The perception of the external world is like the dream. There are no external objects in a dream and yet the ideas manifest as subject and object. Even so the appearance of the external universe is independent of any objective reality.

The analogy of dream phenomena to the phenomena of the waking world is wrong. The consciousness in a dream and that in a wakeful state are dissimilar. The consciousness in a dream depends on the previous consciousness in the wakeful state, but the consciousness in the wakeful state does not depend on anything else, but on the actual perception by senses. Further the dream experience become false as soon as one wakes up. The dreaming man says as soon as he wakes up, "I wrongly dreamt that I had a meeting with the collector. No such meeting took place. My mind was dulled by sleep and so the false ideas arose." Those things on the contrary, of which we are conscious in our waking state such as post and the like are never negated in any state. They stand unchallenged and uncontradicted. Even after hundreds of years they will have the same appearance as now.

Moreover dream phenomena are mere memories whereas the phenomena of the waking state are experienced as realities. The distinction between remembrance and experience or immediate consciousness is directly realised by everyone as being founded on the absence or presence of the object. When a man remembers his absent son, he does not directly meet him. Simply because there is similarity between dream state and waking state we cannot say that they have the same nature. If a characteristic is not the nature of an object it will not become its inherent nature simply by being similar to an object which has that nature. You cannot say that fire which burns is cold because it has characteristics in common with water.

Hence the dreaming state and the waking state are totally dissimilar in their inherent nature.

Na bhavo'nupalabdheh II.2.30 (201)

The existence (of Samskaras or mental impressions) is not possible (according to the Bauddhas), on account of the absence of perception (of external things).

Na: not; Bhavah: existence (of impressions or Samskaras); Anupalabdheh: because they are not perceived, because (external things) are not experienced.

The argument against the Buddhistic theory is continued.

According to your doctrine there could be no existence of Vasanas or mental impressions as you deny the existence of objects.

You say that though an external thing does not actually exist, yet its impressions do exist, and from these impressions diversities of perception and ideas like chair, tree arise. This is not possible, as there can be no perception of an external thing which is itself non-existent. If there be no perception of an external thing, how can it leave an impression?

If you say that the Vasanas or the mental impressions are Anadi (beginningless, or causeless), this will land you in the logical fallacy of regressus ad infinitum. This would in no way establish your position. Vasanas are Samskaras or impressions and imply a cause and basis or substratum, but for you there is no cause or basis for Vasanas or mental impressions, as you say that it cannot be cognised through any means of knowledge.

Kshanikatvacca II.2.31 (202)

And on account of the momentariness (of the Alayavijnana or ego-consciousness it cannot be the abode of the Samskaras or mental impressions).

Kshanikatvat: on account of the momentariness; Cha: and.

The argument against the Buddhistic theory is continued.

The mental impressions cannot exist without a receptacle or abode. Even the Alayavijnana or ego-consciousness cannot be the abode of mental impressions as it is also momentary according to the Buddhistic view.

Unless there exists one continuous permanent principle equally connected with the past, the present and the future, or an absolutely unchangeable Self which cognises everything, we are unable to account for remembrance, recognition, which are subject to mental impressions dependent on place, time and cause. If you say that Alayavijnana is something permanent then that would contradict your doctrine of momentariness.

We have thus refuted the doctrine of the Buddhists which holds the momentary reality of the external world and the doctrine which declares that ideas only exist.

Sarvathanupapattescha II.2.32 (203)

And (as the Bauddha system is) illogical in every way (it cannot be accepted).

Sarvatha: in every way; Anupapatteh: because of its not being proved illogical; Cha: and, also.

The argument against the Buddhistic theory is concluded here.

The Sunyavada or Nihilism of the Buddhist which asserts that nothing exists is fallacious because it goes against every method of proof, viz., perception, inference, testimony and analogy. It goes against the Sruti and every means of right knowledge. Hence it has to be totally ignored by those who care for their own happiness and welfare. It need not be discussed in detail as it gives way on all sides, like the walls of a well dug in sandy soil. It has no foundation whatever to rest upon. Any endeavour to use this system as a guide in the practical concerns of life is mere folly.

O Sunyavadins! You must admit yourself to be a being and your reasoning also to be something and not nothing. This contradicts your theory that all is nothing.

Further, the means of knowledge by which Sunyata is to be proved must at least be real and must be acknowledged to be true, because if such means of knowledge and arguments be themselves nothing, then the theory of nothingness cannot be established. If these means and arguments be true, then something certainly is proved. Then also the theory of nothingness is disproved.