Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Critical analysis of vedAnta paribhAShA Part XXXVII
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXXVII - Nature of ‘ego’ and Self-realization

Some time ago, we began the discussion of jIva and JIva sAkshI, Ishvara and Ishvara sAkshI. Subsequently, we deviated from this topic in order to address some of the issues that had been raised during the earlier discussion. Now we return to the main theme.

jIva and JIva sAkshI have to be understood clearly for self-realization. Shri Sureshvara devotes a whole chapter to sAkshI in his naiShkarmya siddhi. jIva sAkshI is the limiting witnessing consciousness, limited by the upAdhi-s. The example usually given is that of a pot space seemingly limited by the pot walls, although space is limitless and indivisible and the pot-space is inseparable from the total space. Even the pot-walls are in the space. The notion of pot ‘jIva-hood’ can be thought of as arising when the pot identifying with the upAdhi-s thinks that ‘I am a small pot with a limited pot-space’. Here, in addition to this perceived limitation, there is also identification with the upAdhi-s or pot walls, and taking the limitations of the pot as its own limitations as with ‘I am a small-pot, and I wish that I was a big pot like the next door neighbor’.

Pure consciousness is all pervading, like space. Just as in the case of the pot-space seemingly limited by the pot-walls, the witnessing consciousness, sAkshI (also called upahita chaitanya, where ‘upahita’ means ‘depending upon, connected with) is as-though limited by the upAdhi-s of body-mind-intellect or BMI. The consciousness is of the nature of an eternal, self-illumining entity. Just as the pot-space is not separate from the total space, the jIva-sAkshI or upahita chaitanya is not separate from the total consciousness. Yet pot space is different from the total space in the sense that it appears to be limited by the pot walls. Similarly the jIva-sAkshI of A is different from the jIva-sAkshI of B. In the presence of this self-illumining, witnessing consciousness, jIva-sAkshI, the BMI upAdhi-s get illumined and the reflected consciousness in the mind forms the knowledge of the mind. This is the same for everyone, including the j~nAnI. The ignorance of the jIva comes into play when I, the conscious entity, identifying with the reflecting consciousness in the intellect, take myself to be this intellect. This notion that ‘I am this’ is a thought or vRRitti in the intellect only. This identification with reflected consciousness is the jIva and is called chidAbhAsa or reflected consciousness.


This reflection occurs as long as the upAdhi-s are there, since illuminating consciousness is always present. Ego or jIva-hood arises when, not realizing that I am pure consciousness, I identify myself with the limiting reflecting consciousness and think ‘I am this’, where ‘this’ stands first for the intellect then the mind and then the gross body. This identification includes any modification of the body, mind and intellect. Thus, jIva is the limiting reflecting consciousness, chidAbhAsa, qualifying itself as ‘I am this’ where ‘this’ stands for BMI. Hence, the jIva is also called vishiShTa chaitanya, in contrast to the upahita chaitanya of the sAkshI. vishiShTa means qualifying or attributive consciousness where I, the subject consciousness, identify myself with ‘this’, the object that I am conscious of. This identification also results in ownership as in ‘this is mine’. Thus, both ahaMkAra (I am this) and mamakAra (this is mine) get crystallized with the jIva notion, and together are called ‘ego’. Inclusion of ‘this is mine’ also involves exclusion of ‘that is not mine’, and ‘that is not I’. Thus, space-wise, time-wise and object-wise limitations get superimposed onto the jIva notion, as a result of the identifications - adhyAsa.


Self realization is therefore the recognition that I am not this, this being the upAdhi-s (BMI), but I am the sAkshI which is the illuminating consciousness of the upAdhi-s. sAkshI does not really illumine anything and it is just the self-shining, ever-effulgent, all-pervading entity. However, in the presence of sAkshI, the upAdhi-s are illumined. Hence I can say “I am not this”, since ‘I’ am the subject and ‘this’ is an object of my consciousness. I am the pure existence-consciousness that is ever present. By dropping all visheShaNa-s or qualifications, I shift my identification from vishiShTa chaitanya to upahita chaitanya. This shift is done in the buddhi only. I, a conscious entity currently identifying myself with the BMI, drop that identification and recognize that I am the self-existing ever present sAkshI or upahita chaitanya. When I realize that I am the sAkshI, even the notion that ‘I am sAkshI’ also falls away (sAkshI is relevant only with reference to sAkShyam or witnessed) and I recognize that I am the pure, eternal, all-pervading consciousness with no qualifications or limitations. I become a jIvanmukta.

Since the upAdhi-s (BMI) are still there, I can play the role of a jIva knowing very well that I am actually the pure consciousness that illumines the upAdhi-s. When the upAdhi-s fall away, the upahita chaitanya (sAkshI) becomes one with the nirupAdhika chaitanya (all pervading consciousness). It is like saying when the pot walls break the pot-space merges with the total space. In reality, the pot-space is never separate from the total space and there is no real merger either. When the walls are broken, the limiting adjuncts are dropped, along with all notions of division in the space.

Meditation therefore involves shifting my attention from the identification that I am this (BMI) to the witnessing consciousness, jIva sAkshI, because of which I am conscious of, or have the knowledge of, this (BMI). Since the sAkshI is not an object for me to see (since I am the seer sAkshI), I cannot objectify this process as ‘I am not this but that’. All I can do is negate all my identifications by thinking ‘I am not this’ but I am the one who is the negator, who cannot be negated nor objectified. I am the knower, the pramAta and this is known, prameya. I am the pramAta or I am the subject knower, only when there is prameyam or object, separate from me, for me to know. The recognition that this duality is superficial or adhyAsa imposed by the working of the mind and that I am pure consciousness where there is neither pramAta, prameya nor pramANa is self-realization.

The world is nothing but an assemblage of objects and they are known only when the perceptuality conditions are met. This happens when the subject consciousness is identified with the object-consciousness in the form of existence. Shifting attention from the superficial names and forms (objects) to that identifying consciousness that I am (subject) is the essence of meditation.

Ishvara and Ishvara sAkshI

In the realization of that I am upahita chaitanya or jIva sAkshI, there is also recognition that I am upahita chaitanya only because of the presence of the upAdhi-s. But my real nature is that I am the all pervading consciousness that is one without a second. This understanding arises from the Vedantic knowledge that I am not only the existence-consciousness, but that this existence-consciousness is one without a second. In this way, the ‘aham brahmAsmi’ teaching will sink in. It is like saying that the recognition that I am the pot-space also leads to an understanding that I am the total space too, since space is part-less or division-less. This teaching comes from vedAnta. The significance of this is also understood, since even the sAkShyam [witnessed object] that I am conscious of is not separate from me.

In the perceptual process, the object-consciousness is identified with the subject-consciousness in order for perceptuality to occur as discussed by VP. Hence VP says that, in the beginning of the analysis of perception, perceptual knowledge is nothing but pure consciousness. In that understanding, jIva, jIva sAkshI, Ishvara and Ishvara sAkshI all merge into the pure undifferentiated consciousness that I am. With that understanding, the very life existence is fulfilled. Even the scriptures glorify such a realized person. The whole family or lineage is blessed by his presence; his mother is fulfilled by having such a son, nay the whole country where he is born is blessed by this presence.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section (Perception):
01. Introduction Part 1. 28. Perception at the Individual Level.
02. Introduction Part 2. 29. Perception at the Cosmic Level.
03. Analysis of Time and Space. 30. Summary so far.
04. Knowledge is Continuous. 31. vAchArambhanaNaM.
05. Whatever you perceive is Brahman! 32. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.1.
06. Attributes and Substantive. 33. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.2.
07. Mechanics of Perception. 34. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.3.
08. Some Objections. 35. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.4.
09. Internal Perceptions. 36. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.5.
10. The Criteria for Cognition. 37. Nature of ‘ego’ and Self-realization.
11. Unity of limiting consciousness for perception. 38. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 1.
12. Internal Perceptions (cont.) 39. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 2.
13. Some Clarifications Regarding Internal Perception. 40. Analysis of Error - Part 1: khyAti vAda-s.
14. Some Clarifications Regarding Character. 41. Analysis of error - Part 2: vedAnta paribhAshA analysis.
15. Question related to jAti [species]. 42. Analysis of error - Part 3: naiyAyika objection.
16. Relation between an attribute and its substantive. 43. Creation as Transformation.
17. brahman is the changeless substantive. 44. Questions on ‘Creation as Transformation’.
18. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 1). 45. Ontological Status of 'This'.
19. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 2). 46. Two Layers of Ignorance.
20. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 1). 47. Conclusion of silver-nacre analysis.
21. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 2). 48. Perception in Dream.
22. Mind as Subject. 49. Negating false perception.
23. Self-realization. 50. Counterpositive.
24. Application to Illusions. 51. Summary of Mechanism of Perceptual Knowledge.
25. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 1). 52. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 1.
26. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 2). 53. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 2.
27. The position of vishiShTAdvaita.  
The next section in this series continues with the pramANa of anumAna (inference).

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