Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati---7

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30. This is the meaning: Since the self is the witness in deep sleep, it is not non-existent then. If it were, the recollection, “I was ignorant” would not be possible. Even though the knower, means of knowledge, knowledge and the object known vary, the witness of their existence and non-existence remains unchanged in all the three periods of time.

Note: When a person says, “I know this”, the self is the witness of his knowledge. When he says, “I do not know this”, the self is again the witness of his absence of knowledge.

31. Objection (by the Tarkikas): The knower is the substratum of knowledge (i.e. the place where the knowledge rests). He is himself the agent and the enjoyer and, like a lamp, he illumines himself and everything else. So he does not need another witness as a pot does.

Note: According to the Tarkikas, the self is not itself sentient, but becomes a knower when the self comes into contact with an object through the mind and the senses. Therefore. they say, there is no need for another entity to be the witness; that is to say, to know the existence of the knower himself.

32. Ans: It is not so. Since the knower of a particular knowledge (who, according to Advaita, is the mind itself assuming the shape of the object known, with the reflection of consciousness in it) undergoes changes, he cannot be the witness of his own changes. What is an object of knowledge cannot be the knower. The knower of a particular knowledge is a changing entity (because he is different after the origin of that knowledge from what he was before) and is therefore himself an object of knowledge. Only a single changeless entity can be a witness of everything (of all changes). Note. According to Advaita, the self is pure consciousness. There are two kinds of knowledge. One is the eternal knowledge of the self or pure consciousness. This is always existent, even when there is no object to be known. The other is a particular knowledge which arises when the mind stretches out through the appropriate sense organ and takes the shape of a particular object. This knowledge has a beginning and an end. The question raised by the Tarkikas arises only because they do not accept the existence of an eternal pure consciousness. According to Advaita, the self (Atma or Brahman) is the witness of even the absence of knowledge in deep sleep. In deep sleep there is no knowledge of any particular object. That is to say, there is no knower of any particular knowledge. But the eternal pure consciousness, the self, is there in deep sleep also, and it is the witness of the absence of a knower of a particular knowledge.

33. Objection: We do not accept a single, immutable, attributeless witness because there is no authority for that.

34. Ans: Not so (there is authority). “Everything shines because of his shining ; because of his effulgence all these shine variously” (Katha Up. 2.2.15), “You cannot see the seer of sight’ (Br. Up. 3.4.2), “He is never seen, but is the seer” (3.7.23), “There is no seer other than him” (3.7.23) - by such lofty authoritative state-ments in Vedanta it (the self) is itself anointed as the witness of everything.

35. Obj: It is indeed incomprehensible (like a magical trick) that, leaving aside the substrata of knowledge, which are free from deceit (or which are capable of undergoing changes), the lofty authority makes something that is fraudulent (or incapable of change) , and which is not the substratum of knowledge, the witness of everything.

36. Ans: True. This is indeed incomprehensible, like dream, because it is the play of nescience.

37. Obj: Even then, since a knowable object like pot is insentient, how can the mind be the substratum of knowledge?

38. Ans: The objection is not tenable. Since the mind is pure like a mirror, it can receive the reflection of pure consciousness (Brahman-Atman). Or, identity with pure consciousness is attributed to the mind because of superimposition on pure consciousness.

Note: The mind is the product of the sattva portion of all the five elements. It is therefore pure like a mirror and can take the reflection of consciousness just as a mirror takes the reflection of light. Or, it becomes identified withconsciousness on which it is superimposed. In either case, it appears to have consciousness, and can therefore be the substratum of knowledge.

39. Obj: How can an object without form and without parts have a reflection?

40. Ans: What is the incongruity in that? The causes of illusion are strange. The red colour of the Japa flower (China rose) is seen to be reflected in crystal, etc., even though the colour has no form. Sound is seen to have a reflection in the form of the echo. By common consent their reflections are not considered as different from the originals.
41. Obj: Even then, there can be a reflection only for an object that can be known by any of the sense-organs.

42. Ans: It is not so, because there is no such invariable rule. Even space which cannot be grasped by the senses and which is revealed only by the witness-consciousness is seen to be reflected in water, etc. But for such a reflection there would not be the appearance of great depth in mere knee-deep water. Even though the reflection of space is revealed by the witness-consciousness itself, the eye is needed for seeing the light and the clouds which are also reflected along with the space and also for seeing the medium of reflection.