Part XXII – What does negation involve?
Some are concerned why we cannot provide a positive definition for ‘I’ instead of a negative definition such as ‘I am not this’. First, I cannot define the subject at all since any definition objectifies the subject and therefore can never be a subject. Here are some rules: (a) the subject is different from any object; (b) the subject can never become an object; (c) an object can never become a subject; (d) the subject can only be single that is, there is only one subject, I, in the universe; (e) the subject is a conscious entity; (f) an object is an inert entity.
Hence, in principle, any positive definition makes the subject inert or ‘not I’ (anAtma). Instead of definitions, Vedanta uses pointers to indicate that which cannot be pointed to. I am the very core of my individuality that transcends all relations and all relatives. I am the witnessing agent in all my experiences. Positive definitions are avoided, since the mind has a tendency to conceptualize that which is being pointed out, and make it an object rather the subject ‘I’. Ramana Maharshi puts this beautifully as ‘analyze the analyst’ – that eventually will lead to just silence, free from all analysis, and free from any definitions or conceptualizations. In the case of ‘I am not that’ or ‘neti’, what is negated is only the name and form and not the substantive.
Objection: The analysis of the perceptual process has indicated that senses only grasp the attributes and that volition, cognition and recognition occur in the mind. Therefore you have concluded that there is no valid object out there since all the objects are reduced to images in the mind, which are nothing but thoughts. The thoughts themselves are pervaded by the consciousness that I am. Therefore you argue that all object-thoughts and therefore the world itself is pervaded by the consciousness that I am. This is also what vij~nAnavAdin-s of Buddhism argue. However, this does not dismiss the objects out there even if we do not grasp the substantives by our senses.
When I eat good food, do not tell me that it is just thoughts in my mind and there is nothing for me to eat. Try to lift 1000 pounds and say that is in your mind. How can you dismiss the objects out there, saying that they have no reality at all other than as thoughts in my mind? The fact that senses are able to grasp the attributes implies that attributes are not created by the mind. They are out there, locussed on the objects out there. I did not create the objects out there whose attributes I can measure by my senses. Therefore objects and the world should exist independent of me. Therefore, that there is only the consciousness ‘I am’ has not established by the above arguments.
Answer: Beautiful. You are right. In order to establish that ‘I am’ is the source of the objects out there, we need to examine the three states of consciousness that every human being experiences. This analysis has been provided in the Mandukya Upanishad, which provides the most scientific explanations for all human experiences. In order to understand these aspects clearly we need to bring in the total analysis from the microcosm and macrocosm aspects. Before we do that we need to discuss the source of error in the mental evaluation of the objects out there. This will also help to understand the subjective objectification in contrast to objective objectification.
Proceed to the next essay.