Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati---8

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43. By this is explained both the functioning and the non-functioning of the eye in an erroneous perception of the form ‘The sky is blue’. Here the substratum (of the blueness) is the sky accompanied by light. Therefore it is to be understood that a form is needed only when a thing or its reflection is to be seen by the eye, and not otherwise.

Note. The erroneous perception of blueness in the sky occurs only when there is light and not when there is total darkness. The substratum of this blueness is therefore not the sky alone, but the sky accompanied by light. Similarly, the substratum of the illusory snake is the rope along with dim light, since the illusion of a snake does not appear when there is bright light or total darkness. For the illusion to appear, the rope must be seen in a general way as something lying in front. So also, the erroneous perception of blueness appears only when both the sky and the light are perceived. For the perception of the sky the eye is not needed, as it is a direct perception by the witness-consciousness. For the perception of the light the eye is needed. This is what is brought out above.

44. Question: All the same, what is the authority for saying that the self has a reflection?

45. Ans: ‘He (Brahman) assumed the likeness of each form. That form of his was for revealing himself’ (Br.Up2.5.19), ‘The one and only Supreme Being dwells in each being; he appears as one and also as many, like the reflection of the moon in (various vessels of) water’ (Brahmabindu Up. 12), Maya creates jiva and Isvara by reflection (of Brahman in itself’ (Nrsimhottaratapini Up. 9), are the Sruti statements which support this conclusion. The statements such as ‘He has entered here’ (Br.Up.1.4.7), ‘Having split this very end, he entered through this opening’ (Ait. Up. 1.3.12), ‘Having created it, he entered that itself’ (Taitt.Up. 2.6.1) which speak of entering are not explainable otherwise (if reflection of the self is not accepted). The aphorisms of the great sage (Vyasa) such as ‘And the (individual soul) is certainly a reflection (of the supreme Self)’ (Br.Su. 2.3.50), ‘Therefore the comparison with the sun’s reflection, etc.,’ (Br.Su. 3.2.18) are also authority for this.

46. The adherents of the reflection theory (the authors of Vivarana and Samkshepasarirakam and their followers) hold that the reflection is real. The adherents of the semblance theory (Sureshvaracharya and his followers) hold that it is ‘mithya’, that is, it cannot be described either as real or as unreal, like the rope-snake). There is however no dispute about the existence of the reflection itself. It is established by Sruti and by direct perception that the reflection is different from insentient things. Therefore it is established that the mind becomes a knower because of the reflection of the self in it and because of identification with the self.

Note: The Sruti statement ‘This infinite entity that is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs’ (Br.Up.4.3.7) establishes that the jiva is sentient. Moreover direct perception also shows that every creature is sentient.

47. Obj: Besides, superimposition is not possible here. To explain: Is the not-self superimposed on the self, or is the self superimposed on the not-self? The first is not possible. Since the self does not have any general or special characteristics, is always self-effulgent, and has no similarity with the not-self, it cannot be the substratum of any superimposition.

Note: In the case of superimposition of snake on rope, the rope is known only in a general way as ‘this object in front’. Its special characteristic, ropeness, is not known. It is not clearly seen because of the dim light. There is similarity in appearance between a snake and a rope which makes it possible for the rope to be mistaken for a snake. None of these conditions exist in the case of the self. It is devoid of all attributes (nirguna) and so there is no question of any general or special characteristics. It is always effulgent. The rope was mistaken for a snake because its real nature was obscured by the dimness of the light. But nothing can obscure the self. There can be no similarity whatsoever between the self and the not-self and so there is no possibility of their being mistaken for each other.

48. Objection contd: The second alternative - the self superimposed on the not-self, is also not tenable, since the not-self is admitted to be ‘mithya’ (not real). If an object that is not real is claimed to be the substratum of superimposition, then it results in the theory of the void. If (to avoid this difficulty), the not-self is claimed to be real, then it can never be sublated and so there is no possibility of liberation. A real object can never be negated, nor can it be destroyed by knowledge. The Srutis themselves say that the not-self is not real, as seen from the following quotations: “When the Supreme Nirguna Brahman, which appears also as the universe, is realized as identical with one’s own self, then the knot of the heart is cut asunder, all doubts are resolved, and all results of actions (karma) are destroyed” (Mund. Up. 2.2.8). “By knowing that alone, one goes beyond death; there is no other way to liberation” (Sve. Up. 3.8), “The knower of the self crosses over sorrow” (Cha. Up. 7.1.3) - statements such as these indicate the unreality of the not-self by declaring that transmigratory existence is put an end to completely by knowledge.

49. “One only, without a second” (Cha. Up. 6.2.1), “Everything other than this is perishable” (Br. Up. 3.4.2), “There is no diversity whatsoever in it” (Br. Up. 4.4.19), “Now therefore the description, not this, not this” (Br. Up. 2.3.6) - such statements expressly declare the unreality of the not-self. The unreality is also inferred from the fact that the not-self is knowable, like the nacre-silver, etc.