Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati--12

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E text source- 63. Since the consciousness remains as the ultimate entity when all else is negated, there is no possibility of this view being equated with the theory of the void. This is because superimposition is the appearance of the association of the real and the unreal. Therefore, every subsequent superimposition of the ego has as its cause an earlier superimposition. This is beginningless like the seed and the sprout. The superimposition of nescience is, however, only one, and it has no beginning.

Note: Consciousness (or Brahman) is alone real. The ego, etc., are superimposed as such on consciousness. Like the snake superimposed on a rope, they are not real and are therefore negated when the self is realized. But consciousness is not superimposed as such on the ego, etc. Only its quality, sentience, is superimposed. So, even when the ego, etc., are negated, consciousness remains as such. Only the false notion that the ego, body, etc., themselves have sentience is removed and it is realized that the sentience is due only to consciousness. In superimposition the consciousness, which is real, appears to be associated with the ego, etc., which are not absolutely real, but have only empirical reality. A rope can be mistaken for a snake only when the person has previously seen a snake somewhere else, and not otherwise. The mental impression of the snake seen elsewhere previously is the cause of his mistaking the rope for a snake. So the question arises, how can the ego be superimposed unless the person has experienced the ego before? The answer to this is that he had experienced the ego in a previous birth. That again is due to his experience in an earlier birth. This chain is beginningless, like the seed and the sprout. The fact that the ego was not real in past births cannot affect this theory, because there is no rule that only a real thing can create a mental impression. Even a person who has seen a snake only in a picture can have a mental impression of it, which may make him mistake a rope for a snake. As far as avidya is concerned, it is only one and no beginning can be postulated for it. Nobody says, “Ignorance has now arisen in me”, though one does say, “This knowledge has now come to me”. Its superimposition is also therefore beginningless.

64. Obj: If superimposition of nescience has no beginning, then the definition given by the author of the Bhashya that superimposition is the appearance elsewhere, similar in nature to recollection, of a thing seen previously, will be contradicted, because that definition speaks of the origin of a mental impression of the nature of recollection.

Note: When superimposition is defined as being of the nature of recollection, it means that it cannot be beginningless, because a recollection must have a beginning. This is the objection.

65. Ans: No, because that definition is (only) in respect of the superimposition of an effect. The definition which applies to both (super-imposition of cause as well as effect) is merely, “The appearance of one thing in (or as) another thing”. Or, in view of the words ‘combining the real and the unreal’ in the Bhashya, the definition of superimposition according to this system is ‘the appearance of the real and the unreal in combination’’. This definition does not fail to cover the superimposition of the cause also. Since the superimposition of the effect is beginningless in a continuous succession like the seed and the sprout, there is no defect.

Note: The cause is nescience. It is always one and the same and is beginningless. The ego, etc. are the effects. This is also beginningless, but the continuity is from one ego to another and then to yet another and so on, like the sprout from the seed and the seed from the sprout.

66. Superimposition having been thus established, distinctions such as jiva and Isvara, even though there is nothing but one self (as the only reality), become logically tenable. So also, distinctions such as means of knowledge and object of knowledge, become logically tenable.

Note: According to Advaita, there is only one reality, Brahman-Atman, which is pure consciousness. Therefore the question arises, how can there be a multiplicity of jivas and an Isvara different from them? The answer is that these are not real entities like Brahman - Atman, but only superimpositions and therefore mithya like the rope-snake.

67. The self, with nescience as limiting adjunct, is not discriminated from its own reflection in nescience (chidabhasa) which has become identified with nescience. It is therefore described as inner controller, witness, the cause of the universe, and Isvara. Because of non-discrimination from its own reflection in the intellect, which has become identified with the intellect, the same self is known as jiva, agent, enjoyer, and knower. This is the view of the revered Vartikakara (Sureshvaracharya).

Note: “According to Sureshvara Isvara and jiva are the reflections of pure consciousness, i.e. Brahman, in avidya and intellect respectively. He further holds that the reflection in entirety is false or indeterminable either as sentient or as insentient. Isvara, although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the consciousness that serves as the original and is viewed as the creator of the universe. Jiva too, although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the pure consciousness that serves as the original and is viewed as the agent, enjoyer, etc. This theory is known as aabhaasa-vaada. The primary meanings of both the terms are indeterminable and hence they must be discarded. The terms totally abandon their primary senses and secondarily signify the pure consciousness with which their primary senses are falsely identified. Sureshvara thus adopts the secondary signification known as jahallakshana”. (From Preceptors of Advaita, Samata edition, p.72).