Part XXII - Mind as Subject
Regarding perceptuality of objects we stated that,
once perceptuality criteria are met, the objects are
known directly and immediately. We can ask the question: “'who
is that 'I', the subject or the knower, who comes to
know the objects, this and that?” It is the experience
of everyone that I, the individual, am the knower. 'I
am a knower' - pramAta - also appears to be a mental
state that arises when knowledge of 'this' takes place.
It involves a vRRitti that tries to ‘own’ the
knowledge that has taken place (called pramANa phalam
or fruit of the knowing process). Thus we have two mental
states: 'this is a pot' followed by 'I know the pot'.
They are called idam vRRitti and aham vRRitti, 'this
thought’ and ‘I thought'. Thus, the mind
itself seems to act as though it is both a subject and
an object. But we know that mind is matter and cannot
be the subject knower, since the knower has to be a
conscious entity. The consciousness-existence that is
all pervading and ever present is the SAkshI or witnessing-consciousness.
In advaita Vedanta, witnessing consciousness does not
play any active role, even the witnessing that includes
witnessing of vRRitti-s that arise in the mind. It is
a self-shining, ever present entity yet in whose light
all things get illumined or witnessed or become known.
Hence, it does not do any witnessing action but, in
its light, objects are witnessed. Thus, mind and its
attributes are known because of the light of consciousness
from sAkshI that illumines them. When the illuminated
consciousness gets reflected by mind and its attributes,
these become known. Hence, Krishna says: “under
my presidentship, prakRRiti manifests itself as the
whole creation. I am not the doer but things are done
in my presence”. It is in this sense that witnessing
is implied for sAkshI, as witnessing consciousness.
Therefore, when I say 'I know this', I am the knower.
The knower 'I am' is not the sAkshI, the witnessing
consciousness, since ‘knowing’ is a process
that involves modification and sAkshI does not or cannot
(being infinite) undergo any transformation. Before
the knowledge took place, I was ignorant of 'this';
and now I know 'this'. The ignorant individual has been
transformed into a knowledgeable individual (with reference
to 'this'). That constitutes a modification or vikAra.
Hence, the subject or knower 'I am' cannot be the sAkshI,
since sAkshI cannot undergo any modification. At the
same time, the knower has to be a conscious entity,
since an unconscious entity cannot know anything. Then
who is the knower? A short answer is that it is the
jIva or ego who is the knower, since it is that which
claims that 'I am the knower', 'I am a doer' and 'I
am an enjoyer' etc. Then the next question is: who is
this jIva or ego, in relation to the mind and its moods?
According to Advaita Vedanta, the jIva or ego is also
a mental state that arises constantly, particularly
in the waking and dream states. It is the consciousness-existence
that I am, identified with the reflected limiting consciousness
in the mind called chidAbhAsa. Generally, when any mental
mood arises, it is immediately illumined, and the reflected
illumination constitutes the consciousness of the mood
or knowledge of the mood (We are using mental mood and
metal state interchangeably). The content of the mental
mood is 'this'. That is, 'this' can be variable depending
on the mental mood that arises at that time - it could
be the intellect, mind or the body.
The reflected consciousness, together with the identification
of the mental mood as 'I am this', constitutes chidAbhAsa,
ahaMkAra or Ego – the one who takes the role of
the subject in relation to an object. Thus, the ego
always manifests in relationships. Otherwise, it is
pure reflecting consciousness in the mind, as the knower ‘I
am’. This is called 'aham vRRitti', a mental modification
of 'I am'. It is a vRRitti (mental mood) but, when it
rises in the mind, it is illumined directly and immediately
by sAkshI as the knowledge of the object vRRitti takes
place. Here the whole mind is considered as a mental
state, in contrast to object-generated mental states.
Illumination of the whole mind by sAkshI is like general
light falling in the room everywhere or stage lights
illuminating the whole stage. As long as the mind is
functioning, mind as mental mood is continuously present
and is illumined by witnessing consciousness.
The reflected consciousness (same as knowledge) of
the mind as a mental state takes the form of 'I am',
as existence-consciousness, since that is the substantive
for everything in the universe. The subject 'I am' cannot
just remain without having a tangible object that it
can identify with; i.e. mind cannot remain without thinking.
Other mental states that arise in the mind are like
actors coming onto and leaving the stage, who also get
illumined by the stage lights as well as the reflected
light from the stage. When other vRRitti-s become associated
with the intellect, or with subjective emotions or with
the physical body along with physiological functions
etc, the general reflecting consciousness in the mind
as 'I am' now identifies with 'this', this being related
to vRRitti-s that are locussed on objects related to
intellect, emotions, memory, and to the gross physical
body. These translate as 'I am this', 'I am this', 'I
am this', etc where 'this' keeps changing, or 'this
is mine', etc, since perceptuality criteria involve
unity of the existence-consciousness of the subject
with that of the object.
This constitutes the formation of ego, where 'I am'
is the general reflecting consciousness in the mind
(which can also be considered as a vRRitti itself as
an object) now identifying with particular vRRitti-s
associated with the BMI (body, mind and intellect).
In the language of VP, the reflected consciousness of
the vRRitti is the knowledge of myself as 'I am this'.
That 'this' can be related to the intellect, the emotional
mind or physical body; to all that is contained in the
pages and pages of one's autobiography or bio-data.
Thus, when mind and its attributes are directly illumined
by sAkshI chaitanyam, the chidAbhAsa or reflected limiting
consciousness that is formed is called ahaMkAra, jIva
or the ego. The reflected light of illumination can
illumine subsequent objects just as the reflected light
from the moon can itself illumine objects. Because of
its capacity to illumine further, ahaMkAra or Ego also
assumes that it is the knower or subject, although it
is actually only 'borrowing’ the
light of consciousness from the sAkshI.
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