Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

flower picture

Part XXIX - Perception at the Cosmic Level

Just as jIva-sAkshI is consciousness with upAdhi-s as the limiting adjunct, Ishvara-sAkshI or ‘witness in God’ is consciousness with mAyA as the limiting adjunct. (mAyA has been translated as cosmic illusion. Since it does not seem to be an illusion for those who are affected, we retain the word mAyA itself.) Unlike in the jIva's case, since mAyA is singular, the limiting adjunct is also singular. Hence, witnessing consciousness in God is also singular. In shruti texts plurality is sometimes used. For example, it is said: "The supreme Lord is perceived as having manifold forms through His powers of mAyA (mAyAbhiH)". Here, the plurality corresponds to the diversity of powers that are present in the mAyA (mAyAbhiH). Also, the plurality can also be intended with reference to the three guNa-s that make up mAyA: serenity (sattva), activity (rajas) and inertia (tamas). The unity of mAyA can be inferred from the use of the singular number, supported by the simplicity of the explanation of shruti and smRRiti statements such as: 'one should know the mAyA is nothing but prakRRiti or nature (mAyAntu prakRitim vidyAt mAyinantu maheswaram) and the ruler of that to be Great Lord - Svet. Up. IV-10; 'Salutations to that unknowable Embodiment of Knowledge who being established in the heart, a yogin transcends the mAyA, the all pervasive nescience (tarati avidyAm vititAm hRidi yasmin nivEshitE| yogI mAyAmamEyAma tasmai vidyAtmanE namaH|| - Vishnu PuraNa V-27-15); and other, similar shruti statements. Thus, in all the statements in both shruti and smRRiti, singularity has to be understood for simplicity and there is no plurality of mAyA itself.

Ishvara-sAkshI is the upahita chaitanya or limiting consciousness with the limiting adjunct of mAyA just as jIva-sAkshI is upahita chaitanya or limiting consciousness with jIva-upAdhi as its limiting adjunct. It is beginningless, since the limiting adjunct of mAyA is beginningless. Having defined the Ishvara-sAkshI, VP now defines Ishvara itself. The definition follows the format of that for jIva chaitanya. Just as jIva is the limiting consciousness identified with the limiting adjunct of upAdhi, Ishvara or Lord is defined as limiting consciousness identified with the limiting adjunct of mAyA. Thus, with the qualifying attribute of mAyA it is Ishvara (or God or Godhead) and, without the qualifying attribute but just with the limiting adjunct of upAdhi, it is jIva. Otherwise there is no other difference between the two in terms of having different attributes.

Since mAyA is triguNAtmikam, i.e. possessing three guNa-s, the supreme Lord, although one, is designated by the terms such as BrahmA (four-headed), ViShNu and maheshvara or Shiva, according to the dominant guNa – activity (rajas); serenity (sattva); and inertia (tamas) – which are the limiting qualifying attributes of mAyA.

Q: If the witness in God is beginningless, then how is one to explain the beginning of the reflection on the part of the Supreme Lord just before projecting the universe, mentioned in texts such as: "It visualized ‘let me become many, Let me be born (as many)’ - tad aikshata bahu syAm, prajAyeya" (Ch. Up. VI-2-3). There seems to be a beginning for Ishvara, sAkShitvam or the witness in God.

A: The parallelism with jIva-sAkshi is used to explain this. As a result of the sense organs and the mind coming into contact with objects, different mental states or vRRitti-s arise in the mind, which forms the limiting adjunct of the individual jIva or self. Similarly, particular states (in analogy with vRRitti-s at individual level) arise at the cosmic level according to the past karma or actions of all beings that are ready to germinate. The projection is according to priorities based on the karma of those beings. Thus, the thoughts "Now this has to be projected or originated (brahma), now this has to be maintained (Vishnu) and now this has to be destroyed (Shiva)" etc, arise in mAyA, which is the limiting adjunct of the Supreme Lord. Since these states have a beginning, the consciousness reflected in them is also described as having a beginning.

Creation, sustenance and annihilation are in fact a cyclic process. When the cosmic sleep occurs, all the beings and the world go into potential form or unmanifest form. One can say that Ishvara is in yoga nidrA, just as when a jIva goes into deep sleep all the world of objects and the attributive knowledge goes into potential or unmanifest form or pure vAsanA state. vAsanA-s, which are nothing but consolidated ignorance, are illuminated and hence 'I do not know' is the only knowledge without any place-wise, time-wise or object-wise discriminative attributive knowledge. mAyA at the cosmic level and ignorance at the individual level, with names and forms in potential or unmanifest form, constitute deep sleep states at each level.

When Ishvara and jIva get up they start projecting, Ishvara at the cosmic level and jIva at the individual level. This is the waking state, with the unmanifest forms manifesting based on previous knowledge before they went into the unmanifest state. Thus, micro and macro levels operate in parallel. The only difference is that the jIva has ignorance as the cause for projection, with his own vAsanA-s forming the basis for projection, while Ishvara does not have His own vAsanA-s but only the collective vAsanA-s of all beings. Hence, Ishvara is not affected by the projection and is called mAyAvi or wielder of mAyA. The jIva is ignorant of his own nature and therefore he gets affected by the projection when that projection is taken as real.

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).

Return to list of topics in Discourses by Teachers and Writers.
See the list sorted by Topic.
See the list sorted by Author.

Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012