Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati--16

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E text source- 91. Obj: Since Brahman is unfailingly self-luminous, it is omniscient. So how can there be a veil of ignorance covering it?

92. Answer: It is true that Brahman is omniscient because it illumines everything that is connected with it. But it is described as covered because it is the content (object) of the ignorance of the jiva who is limited by the mind. Therefore, in the view that Brahman is the cause of the universe the purpose of the vritti is to connect the knower-consciousness and for removing the covering. In the view that the jiva is the cause of the universe, the vritti is only for removing the veil of ignorance.

93. Obj: By a single knowledge such as that of a pot the covering of ignorance is removed and so there should be immediate liberation because there is only one ignorance. Even in the view that ignorances are manifold, each jiva has only one ignorance as limiting adjunct and so the same should apply.

94. Answer: No, because the veil of ignorance is said to be only suppressed (rendered powerless) by the vritti (and not destroyed), just as a gem which obstructs the heat of fire is counteracted by a mantra and made incapable of obstructing the heat. The ignorance which operates before the rise of a mental modification (vritti) generated by a pramana and which (ignorance) has the capacity to create the notion that a particular object does not exist and is not perceptible even when that object actually exists and is perceptible, is what is called a veil (or covering). When the vritti arises, the capacity of the ignorance to create such a wrong notion is stultified and so it is as good as the ignorance not existing even though it does exist, because it is rendered incapable of achieving its purpose of veiling the object..Therefore it is said to be suppressed.

Note: The idea is that when an object becomes known the ignorance that covered it previously is not destroyed but is only rendered powerless to conceal that particular object. Since the ignorance is not destroyed it continues to conceal Brahman. So the contention that when a pot is known the ignorance covering Brahman should also be destroyed is not tenable.

95. Obj: If that is so, then since avidya will not be destroyed even by the knowledge of Brahman (as one’s real nature), there can be no liberation at all.

Note: Since it was stated that the knowledge of an object such as pot does not destroy the ignorance covering the pot but only makes it powerless temporarily, even knowledge of Brahman cannot destroy nescience permanently and so permanent liberation is not possible. This is the objection.

96. Answer: It is not so, because it is accepted that avidya is destroyed by the knowledge of the meaning of the mahavakyas such as ‘Thou art that’. It destroys avidya because it is valid knowledge of Brahman which is the content of avidya. The knowledge of the import of the mahavakyas alone is valid knowledge because its content is never contradicted. The knowledge acquired through means of knowledge such as perception relates to things which are liable to be negated and it is therefore an illusion, but from the empirical standpoint it is considered to be valid knowledge. The fact that the destruction of ignorance by knowledge (as opposed to mere suppressing) is not seen anywhere else (except in the case of Brahman-knowledge) is of no consequence, because the destruction of nescience by Brahman-knowledge is a matter of actual experience (by the enlightened). Since this (experience) is not otherwise accountable, the conclusion that avidya is destroyed by Brahman-knowledge is most valid. It has been said: "If it (the actual state of affairs) cannot be accounted for otherwise, the proposition that accounts for the actual state of affairs crushes the objection to accepting what is not seen elsewhere; that alone is most powerful".

Note: The content of nescience or the primary ignorance (moola-ajnaana) is Brahman itself. The mahavakyas impart the knowledge of Brahman. So this knowledge destroys nescience. Since Brahman alone is real, Brahman-knowledge alone is valid knowledge from the absolute (paaramaarthika) standpoint. All things in the world are found to be unreal when enlightenement is attained and so the knowledge of such things is only illusory, though it is considered to be valid from the empirical standpoint.

97. Or, (taking the view held by some previous teachers that knowledge of an object destroys the ignorance covering the object and does not merely suppress it), the ignorances that cover objects such as pot are only modes of the primal ignorance. Since ignorance is in the position of an antecedent non-existence of knowledge, it has to be accepted that there are as many ignorances as there are knowledges. Since only one ignorance is destroyed by one knowledge, though the veil of ignorance covering an object such as pot is destroyed by the knowledge of the particular object, there is no illogicality (in the view that ignorance of Brahman cannot be destroyed by the destruction of the ignorance covering an object).

Note: It is to be noted that ‘ignorance covering an object’ means ‘ignorance covering the consciousness limited by the object’. See para 80 above.