Part XXVIII - Perception at the Individual Level
At the individual level, we differentiate two things
- one is the individual (jIva), and the other is the
witnessing consciousness of the individual (jIva-sAkShin).
These two can be referred as two aspects of jIva, one
from the transactional level and the other from the
transcendental level. Ontologically they are not the
same. JIva or individual is defined as consciousness
limited by the mind and through the mind, body, etc.
(the BMI). When the jIva does not know his transcendental
nature, we say that he is covered by ignorance about
his true nature. Since knowledge is eternal, it gets
revealed only when the veil of ignorance is removed
through the appropriate pramANa. Ignorance is beginningless
(anAdi) but ends when the veil of ignorance is removed
and knowledge takes place.
Self-ignorance can be removed by self-knowledge alone,
since they are opposite to each other, just as chemistry
ignorance is removed by chemistry knowledge. Chemistry
knowledge cannot remove physics ignorance. By the same
token, no amount of scientific, objective investigation
and reasoning can remove ignorance of the subject, the
self. Objective investigation reveals only objective
knowledge. Only the pramANa that can remove the ignorance
of one's own self can reveal self-knowledge. In the
state of ignorance, consciousness as though (a) reflected
in the mind and (b) identified with it constitutes the
empirical self or transactional self, the jIva. Any
reflected consciousness, in general, constitutes the
knowledge of the thing that is reflecting, since we
now become conscious of the thing that is reflecting,
just as the reflected light from an object reveals the
object that is reflecting the light. The jIva involves
two aspects. The first aspect is the formation of the
reflected consciousness in the mind (actually, it is
the intellect part of the mind which is the locus for
knowledge), and the second aspect is the identification
with the reflected consciousness as 'I am this'.
Vedanta discusses how the all pervading Brahman became
a jIva. After the creation of both subtle and gross
bodies, the Upanishads declare that Brahman entered
into them (the statements are referred to as 'anupravesha'
shruti statements, meaning ‘entered into’).
Since Brahman is all pervading consciousness, it cannot
enter into anything other than itself since there is
nothing other than itself; nor can one say that it entered
into itself, since this makes no sense. Hence, Advaita
Vedanta explains the so-called 'entering' as meaning
that, when the gross and subtle bodies that are formed
become conducive to express life, then Brahman itself
manifests as jIva.
Anupravesha shruti declares that Brahman himself became
multiple jIva-s by identifying with the local upAdhi-s,
thus establishing the identity of Brahman with jIva-s,
as illustrated later by the mahAvAkya-s. Here, the formation
of the reflected consciousness in the intellect constitutes
the entering of Brahman – this is also called
formation of 'pratibimba' (reflected image) or chidAbhAsa
(reflection of consciousness, ego). The reflecting medium
(purity of the intellect) determines the quality of
the reflection. Formation of the reflected, limiting
consciousness is only one part. The second part involves
identification with the upAdhi-s as 'I am this'. This
identification involves ownership, as 'I am this' and
'this is mine' etc. With the identification, 'I am'
'as though' gets qualified by 'this', 'this' being intellect,
mind (the emotional part) or the gross body as well
as all physiological functions associated with it. Hence
VP says 'jIva' is a qualifying attributive limiting
reflected consciousness of the mind along with the notion
of ownership of those qualifications as mine.
All the above verbiage really means that the upAdhi-s
(BMI) are limited and therefore the reflection is limited,
even though Brahman is limitless. All-pervading consciousness
gets reflected in the mind, and hence the reflected
or formed pratibimba is limited. It is like the Sun
being reflected in mirrors or pools of water. This is
termed ‘limiting reflected consciousness in the
mind’. When it identifies with the attributive
mind (mind includes BMI, since identification is a thought
in the mind as 'I am this'), it becomes the owner of
the BMI attributes as ‘my attributes’. Hence,
I think that, since my body is short, ‘I am short’;
if the body is weak, ‘I am weak’; intellect
is dull, ‘I am dull’; and mind is depressed, ‘I
am depressed’, etc. The ownership crystallizes
the jIva notion. Looking back at VP statement now, JIva
constitutes the qualifying, attributive, limiting, reflected
consciousness in the mind along with the ownership of
The original consciousness that gets conditioned in
the BMI is called sAkshI or witnessing consciousness.
Even though Brahman is limitless or unbounded, the condition
of the BMI makes it appear as though sAkshI is bounded.
To illustrate this, let us consider clay forming into
pot. When a pot is formed, we now have pot space. When
we move the pot from place A to place B, we might be
tempted to think that the space relative to the pot
also moves. But space is immovable, all pervading and
limitless. The pot, together with the air inside it
and any contents moves within that space, which itself
remains unaffected. The pot space might appear to be
constrained by the walls of the pot, but the attributes
of the pot do not belong to the pot space.
Hence VP says that the difference between a jIva and
jIva-sAkshI can be described simply as that the former
is its transactional nature and the latter is its transcendental
nature. In the former case, the mind that is limiting
the consciousness becomes a qualifying attribute as
when the jIva says 'I am this'. Hence, the jIva is called ‘qualifying,
attributive, limiting, reflected consciousness’.
In the case of sAkshI, the mind is a limiting adjunct
but not a qualifying adjunct. sAkshI is a witnessing
consciousness untainted by the witnessed mind. In the
jIva's case, the mind with its attributes due to sAttvika,
rAjasika and tAmasika guNa-s forms the attributive content
of jIva because of its identification with the mind.
This identification occurs, Vedanta says, because of
not knowing my true nature which is transcendental.
A conscious entity getting identified with the limiting
inert entity, mind, is jIva as reflected consciousness.
The conscious entity just witnessing the limiting mind
(BMI) is sAkshI chaitanyam.
To illustrate the difference, VP gives two examples.
For jIva, the example given is 'the colored jar is transitory'.
Here the color is the qualifying attribute of the jar.
The jar can identify itself as 'I am a colored jar' – identification
with a limiting name and form, with the attribute of
color, is the notion of 'jar-jIva' and it considers
itself as transitory since the name, form and attributes
are transitory. This, then, is the transactional view
of the jar. Suppose now that the jar recognizes that ‘I
am clay in the form of a jar with a color’. Now
the jar has transcendental understanding. It has no
identification or ownership with the form or color,
and therefore does not feel it is transitory ether.
It realizes that ‘now I am in the form jar; I
can be in other forms; the forms are only for transactions
and my nature is pure, formless, colorless clay’.
VP gives another example of sAkshI – it is conditioned
by the upAdhi-s but without identification, like space
in the inner ear. Space has nothing to do with the ear
but the constrained space within the walls of the inner
ear constitutes part of the ear. In the same way, although
witnessing consciousness is all pervading, the limiting
constraints of the mind (BMI) constitutes the sAkshI
chaitanya which illumines the particular mind that it
is associated with it. It is like saying that the space
in the jar is limited, although the space is all pervading
and the pot-space is connected to outer space.
Shri VidyAraNya says (in AnubhutiprakaSha) that the
jIva, jIva-sAkshI and Brahman can all be considered
as consciousness but expressed in three different ways:
(a) vishiShTa chaitanya (b) upahita chaitanya and (c)
nirupAdhika chaitanya. Limiting, reflected consciousness
identified with attributes (visheShaNa) of the upAdhi
is jIva chaitanya or vishiShTa chaitanya. Limiting, illuminating consciousness
(it is actually not doing the illumination) constrained
by upAdhi-s (with no identification with the qualities
of the upAdhi-s) is upahita chaitanya or sAkshI chaitanya
[upahita means ‘depending upon’]. The last
one is without any upAdhi-s [nirupAdhika means ‘without
attributes or qualities]; i.e. when jIvanmukta drops
his upAdhi-s during videha mukti [liberation through
death of the body]. There is no difference in b) and
c) other than the constraints of the upAdhi-s, just
as there is no difference between pot-space and the
outer-space other than the constraining pot walls.
Self-realization is the recognition by the jIva that ‘I
am the illuminating consciousness, sAkshI’, rather
than the reflected qualified or attributive conscious
entity 'I am this'. sAkshI 'as though' constrained by
the upAdhi-s, is called jIva-sAkshI, since it can witness
or illumine the upAdhi-s by which it appears to be constrained,
just as we say that the space in our house is limited,
even though space is limitless. VP says that this jIva-sAkshI
in each individual is different, because the limiting
upAdhi-s are different, just as spaces in different
pots are different due to the constraining walls of
the pots. Hence for this reason, what one individual,
Caitra, knows, another individual, Maitra, cannot recollect.
Similarly, if one individual self-realizes, the other
individual does not since, as we discussed before, realization
involves recognition that the limiting reflected attributive
consciousness is nothing but the original unqualified
or attributeless conscious that is causing the illumination
and reflection. I.e. vishiShTa chaitanya is the same
as upahita chaitanya, in the language of shrI vidyAraNya.
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