Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati--13

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E text source- 76. Pure consciousness which is the original (which is what is reflected), with nescience as its limiting adjunct is Isvara. The reflection of consciousness in nescience is the jiva. Or, pure consciousness not limited by nescience is Isvara. Consciousness limited by nescience is the jiva. This is the main Vedanta theory, known as the theory of a single jiva. This itself is called ‘drishtisrishtivaada’.In this view the jiva himself is the material and efficient cause of the universe through his own nescience. All the objects perceived are illusory (like things seen in dream). The delusion that there are many jivas is only due to there being many bodies. Liberation is attained by the single jiva on realization of the self as a result of the perfection of hearing, reflection,etc, with the help of the Guru and the scriptures which are all conjured up by him. The statements about Suka and others having attained liberation are only by way of eulogy. In the Mahavakya the term ‘That’ signifies by implication consciousness not limited by nescience, like the terms ‘infinite’, ‘reality’, etc. Such differences in views within the main framework should be known by inference.

77. Obj: Since there cannot be different opinions about a real thing, how can such mutually contradictory views be valid? So, what view is to be accepted and what is to be rejected?

78. Who says that different opinions are not possible about a real thing? It is seen that the same object is seen as a pillar or a man or a demon, etc. If it is said that the views there are not correct, because they arise only in a person’s mind, but this distinction as jiva, Isvara, etc, is based on the scriptures, then (the answer is):

79. You are indeed very clever. The scriptures have as their main purport the nature of the non-dual self, because that is what is fruitful and not known. The concepts of distinctions such as jiva, Isvara, etc., which are only creations of the human mind, are merely repeated by the scriptures, because they are useful for knowing the Reality. The maxim is that in the presence of what is fruitful, its auxiliary is not fruitful. Even the scriptures may state something that is merely the outcome of delusion (if that serves the main purpose). There is no possibilty of the knowledge of the non-dual reality being affected by this knowledge of duality (since non-duality alone is real).

Note: The knowledge of the non-dual Brahman alone is fruitful. The world of duality is mentioned only to help us to realize Brahman . Knowledge of duality does not therefore have any fruit by itself, and is only auxiliary to the knowledge of non-duality.

80. Even when the knowledge of duality such as the knowledge of a pot has arisen, only the knowledge of the ‘non-dual existence’ part which was previously not known can be considered to be valid. (The knowledge of the pot in the form ‘The pot is’ consists of the knowledge of its form together with its existence,. Of these two, only the existence part is real and the form is merely superimposed). Knowledge and ignorance must necessarily have the same locus and the same content. Ignorance cannot be considered to exist with regard to an inert object since no purpose is served by the application of a valid means of knowledge to it. Every means of knowledge becomes a valid means of knowledge only if it makes known a thing which was not known previously (i.e. which was covered by ignorance). An inert object is described as not known only because the consciousness limited by that object is not known. A valid means of knowledge is one that makes known what was not known. Otherwise even recollection would become valid knowledge.

Note: A valid means of knowledge is one which makes known what was previously not known, or, in other words, which removes the ignorance covering an object. Ignorance is what covers an object. A covering is necessary only when the object in question would be perceptible but for such covering. An inert object cannot shine by itself. It shines only because of the pure consciousness on which it is superimposed. So what ignorance has to cover is the underlying consciousness and not the superimposed object. Any object is in reality pure consciousness limited by that object. Knowledge of an object is really knowledge of the consciousness underlying the object. Thus both ignorance and knowledge have the pure consciousness as their locus as well as content. Recollection is of something already known previously and so it is not valid knowledge.

81. Thus, everywhere in Vedanta, when there are such contradictions, this is the answer. The Vartikakara says: “All the different means by which people can attain knowledge of the self should be understood to be valid. These means are unlimited in number”.

Note: Different Acharyas have expressed different views about how the mahavakaya is to be understood. The followers of Sureshvara say that jahallakshana is to be adopted. The followers of Sarvajnatmamuni and Vachaspatimisra adopt ajahallakshana. Dharmaraja Adhvarindra, the author of Vedantaparibhasha interprets the vakya without resort to lakshana. But there is no difference as far as the ultimate import of the vakya is concerned. All agree that the vakya declares the identity of the jiva and Brahman. So all these methods of interpretation are acceptable.

82. We have declared hundreds of times that what is opposed to the import of the sruti (which is Brahman) should be rejected. Therefore such differences in views are of little consequence. The jiva undergoes transmigration because he is under the control of his limiting adjunct. Since the supreme Isvara controls his limiting adjunct, he has qualities such as omniscience. Thus the distinction between them is logically explained.