Part XXXI -
Knowledge reveals itself
If there an object 'pot' right in front of me then,
when I open my eyes, I cannot but see the object, assuming
that the mind is not preoccupied. Sense input is immediate
and the vRRitti of the object formed based on the sense
input is also immediate. When a vRRitti is illumined
by the light of consciousness, reflection of that light
by the vRRitti constitutes the knowledge of the vRRitti.
Now not only do I know that 'this is pot', but I also
know that 'I know that this is pot'. I.e. besides
having the knowledge of the pot, I also know that
I have the knowledge of the pot. Pot knowledge is known
by the limiting reflecting consciousness of the pot-vRRitti.
If we ask what reveals knowledge of the pot knowledge,
we can only say that knowledge is self-revealing. Knowledge
of an object requires illumination by the light of consciousness,
but we do not need to illumine the illuminated knowledge.
What this means is that knowledge is of the nature
of illumination and one does need to illumine another
illumination. We do not need another light to see a
light. That is, it is the very nature of knowledge to
reveal the nature of the object and also reveal itself.
Knowledge is self-revealing and does not need another
knowledge to reveal it, apart from the fact that this
would lead to infinite regress. Hence, ChitsukhAchArya
says that knowledge is immediately apprehended without
being objectified, since it is self-luminous. Hence,
when I say 'here is a pot', the pot knowledge is apprehended
along with the knowledge 'I know that there is a pot
here'. Here, we are essentially separating the knowledge
of an object and the cognition of the object although
the cognition of the object and the knowledge of that
cognition are effectively simultaneous.
Q: Do we not see the object first and its attributes
A: Object knowledge results from sensory input of attributes
only. Here is the reasoning:
1. Brahman is the material cause for the universe. (yato vA
imAni bhUtani jAyante etc. – Tait. U. III.i.1 and janmAdhyasya
yataH – B.S. I.i.2).
2. Logical analysis shows that the effect is nothing but the
cause itself in a different form (kArya kAraNa samAnAdhikAra).
3. The Upanishads give three laukika or worldly examples of
. pots are nothing but clay itself in different forms
. ornaments are nothing but gold itself in different forms
. iron tools are nothing but iron itself in different forms.
The classical example is from the Chandogya Upanishad.
Verse 6.1.5 is as follows:
yathA somyaikena lohamaNinA sarvaM lohamayaM viGYAta\m+
syAdvAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAmadheyaM lohamityeva satyamH
Verily, child, as the knowledge of (the nature of)
a single clod of earth makes manifest (the nature of)
all earthen objects, (and shows) that the various fabrications
indicated by different words and names are in truth
The word ‘eva’ [just so, indeed, truly;
most frequently used to strengthen the meaning of the
associated word - exactly, same, even, only etc.] implies
that gold alone is real and not the names and forms
or kAryam-s [effects or products]. A ring is nothing
but gold itself in a different form. Ring, bangle, bracelet,
etc are vAchArambhanam vikAro nAmadheyam - just names
and forms for the same substantive gold. By saying that
gold alone is real, it dismisses any reality of the
products; the material cause or substantive cause alone
is real, not the superficial names and forms. Hence
the famous statement ‘vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAmadheyaM’ is
repeated many times in the chapter to drive home the
fact that all objects have no substantive other than
Brahman. Hence ‘neha nAnAsti kiMchana’ [there
is no diversity here (Br. U. 4.iv.19)] and ‘sarvaM
khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily brahman
(CH. U. 3. 14.1)]. There is nothing other than brahman
and, if one sees something other than Brahman, then
it is just name and form and has no substantive other
than Brahman. Hence we have the prayer that is said
before taking food: brahmArpaNaM brahma havir etc. [Brahman
the offering, Brahman the oblation (Bhag. Gita IV.24)].
4. Going back to our worldly example: When I say ‘it
is a ring’, I am seeing ring attributes which are different
from gold attributes. Based on the ring attributes, I say ‘it
is a ring’ and based on bracelet attributes I say ‘it
is a bracelet’. There is no ‘ring substance’ and
no ‘bracelet substance’ to differentiate the two.
The substantive for both is gold alone and only this is real.
The gold of both ring and bracelet is not differentiable. ‘loham
iti eva satyam’ implies that the ‘real’ is
not the ring or bangle or bracelet. These are all vAchArambhaNaM
vikAro nAmadheyaM – the product (vikAra) is just dependent
upon mere words or some merely verbal difference (vAchArambhanaNaM),
with a name (nAmadheyam). We have to give the ring a name,
based on its particular attributes, in order to differentiate
it from a bangle and its particular attributes. But they are
just words; just speech for transactional purposes - nAma for
rUpa [names for forms]. (rUpa in general includes - shabda,
sparsha, rUpa, rasa, gandha - the five sense inputs of sound
, touch, appearance, taste and smell.) So ring, bangle etc.
are all the same gold but with different names and forms and
with different utilities. Ring, bangle etc are just 'pAda-s'
or names without any padArtha or material substance of their
own to separate them.
Gold attributes are different from ring attributes;
they include such things as luster, malleability, resistance
to corrosion etc. Gold is recognized from its attributes.
The laukika or worldly examples are given to indicate
that the material cause pervades its products. Products
of the same material cause are nothing but names and
forms (attributes) of that same material. This is what
is referred to as vyavahAra satyam. Saying that gold
ALONE (eva) is real dismisses the names and form as
not real. But they are not unreal either since they
have transactional reality. Hence, vyavahAra satyam
is provided by the ‘vAchArambhaNaM
vikAro nAamadheyaM’ statement. pAramArthika satyam
and vyAvahArika satyam relate to kAraNa (causal) and
kArya (product) levels.
5. After establishing that the material cause alone
manifests in a variety of names and forms, the Chandogya
Upanishad goes into an elaborate description of the
cause for the whole universe with sadeva somyedamagra
AsI (6.2.1) relating to Brahman as the material cause.
The whole of Chandogya 6th chapter up to section 7 centers
on establishing that brahman is satyam and jagat is
mithyA, with brahman as the material cause for all of
the subtle and gross elements of the universe. From
section 8 to 16, it completes the teaching of ‘jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH’ [the
jIva is not different from brahman] – with the statement ‘tat
tvam asi’ [that thou art] . Thus, the whole advaitic teaching
is packed into that Chapter. mithyA is neither real nor unreal;
it is mAyA, or adhyAsa – a superimposition on the real,
just as ring is a superimposition on the gold.
Hence, according to Advaita, Brahman alone is the material cause
and everything is nothing but form and name (attributes with
nAmadheyam - like ring and bangle etc.)
6. Only attributes can be gathered by the senses, not the substantive.
In the case of the ring and bangle example, I gather attributes
of the ring and attributes of the gold. If the ring is made
of iron, then I gather attributes of the ring and attributes
of the iron. There is no ‘ringly substantive’ to separate
it from a ‘bangly substantive’.
7. According to Vedanta, sat is the material cause. sat has no
attributes since attributes belong to finite things, not the
infinite. Therefore, the senses can gather all the attributes
of worldly objects but there are no attributes of Brahman since
Brahman is all pervading.
8. If one understand vedAnta paribhAshA correctly, it clearly
says that the perceptuality condition involves unity of the
subject consciousness with the object consciousness formed
as a vRRitti of the object in the mind. The contents of this
vRRitti are the attributes of the object, as perceived by the
senses. Since Brahman expresses vividly in inert objects as
pure existence, this unity is the unity of the subject consciousness
with the objects existence in the form of the vRRitti. When
the vRRitti is formed in the mind, it reflects the illumination
of the witnessing consciousness and this reflected, limiting
consciousness of the object is what constitutes ‘knowledge’ of
In the discussion of creation, the Chandogya says ‘bahu
syAm’ (let me become many) (6.2.3). sat becoming many
produces the varieties of objects in the world. Objects are
nothing but vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAamadheyaM, merely words
with names and forms. Forms are only attributes, with no substantive
of their own. From the scientific viewpoint, there are no svarUpa
lakShaNa-s for objects since they are made up of parts. Brahman
alone has svarUpa lakShaNa, since He is part-less. At each
level of transaction, we have only transactional reality.
Proceed to the next