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  Srimad Bhagavatam

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  Sankara Bhashya
  By Edwin Arnold

  Brahma Sutra
  Sankara Bhashya I
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  Ramanuja SriBhashya


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Ramanujacharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya translated By George Thibaut
SriBhashya - Ramanuja's Commentary On Brahma Sutra (Vedanta Sutra)

Sri Bhashya (also spelled as Sri Bhasya) is a commentary of Ramanujacharya on the Brama Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras) of Badarayana. In this bhashya, Ramanuja presents the fundamental philosophical principles of Visistadvaita based on his interpretation of the Upanishads, Bhagavad-gita and other smrti texts. In his Sri-bhashya he describes the three categories of reality (tattvas): God, soul and matter, which have been used by the later Vaisnava theologians including Madhva. The principles of bhakti as a means to liberation were also developed.

The view that the conscious subject is something unreal, due to the ahamkâra, cannot be maintained.

We turn to a further point. You maintain that consciousness which is in reality devoid alike of objects and substrate presents itself, owing to error, in the form of a knowing subject, just as mother o' pearl appears as silver; (consciousness itself being viewed as a real substrate of an erroneous imputation), because an erroneous imputation cannot take place apart from a substrate. But this theory is indefensible. If things were as you desciibe them, the conscious 'I' would be cognised as co-ordinate with the state of consciousness 'I am consciousness,' just as the shining thing presenting itself to our eyes is judged to be silver. But the fact is that the state of consciousness presents itself as something apart, constituting a distinguishing

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attribute of the I, just as the stick is an attribute of Devadatta who carries it. The judgment 'I am conscious' reveals an 'I' distinguished by consciousness; and to declare that it refers only to a state of consciousness--which is a mere attribute--is no better than to say that the judgment 'Devadatta carries a stick' is about the stick only. Nor are you right in saying that the idea of the Self being a knowing agent, presents itself to the mind of him only who erroneously identifies the Self and the body, an error expressing itself in judgments such as 'I am stout,' and is on that account false; for from this it would follow that the consciousness which is erroneously imagined as a Self is also false; for it presents itself to the mind of the same person. You will perhaps rejoin that consciousness is not false because it (alone) is not sublatcd by that cognition which sublates everything else. Well, we reply, then the knowership of the Self also is not false; for that also is not sublatcd. You further maintain that the character of being a knower, i.e. the agent in the action of knowing, does not become the non-changing Self; that being a knower is something implying change, of a non-intelligent kind (gada), and residing in the ahamkâra which is the abode of change and a mere effect of the Unevolved (the Prakriti); that being an agent and so on is like colour and other qualities, an attribute of what is objective; and that if we admit the Self to be an agent and the object of the notion of the 'I,' it also follows that the Self is, like the body, not a real Self but something external and non-intelligent. But all this is unfounded, since the internal organ is, like the body, non-intelligent, an effect of Prakriti, an object of knowledge, something outward and for the sake of others merely; while being a knowing subject constitutes the special essential nature of intelligent beings. To explain. Just as the body, through its objectiveness, outwardness, and similar causes, is distinguished from what possesses the opposite attributes of subjectiveness, inwardness, and so on; for the same reason the ahamkâra also--which is of the same substantial nature as the body--is similarly distinguished. Hence the ahamkâra is no more

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a knower than it is something subjective; otherwise there would be an evident contradiction. As knowing cannot be attributed to the ahamkâra, which is an object of knowledge, so knowership also cannot be ascribed to it; for of that also it is the object. Nor can it be maintained that to be a knower is something essentially changing. For to be a knower is to be the substrate of the quality of knowledge, and as the knowing Self is eternal, knowledge which is an essential quality of the Self is also eternal. That the Self is eternal will be declared in the Sûtra, II, 3, 17; and in II, 3, 18 the term 'gña' (knower) will show that it is an essential quality of the Self to be the abode of knowledge. That a Self whose essential nature is knowledge should be the substrate of the (quality of) knowledge--just as gems and the like are the substrate of light--gives rise to no contradiction whatever.

Knowledge (the quality) which is in itself unlimited, is capable of contraction and expansion, as we shall show later on. In the so-called kshetraa--condition of the Self, knowledge is, owing to the influence of work (karman), of a contracted nature, as it more or less adapts itself to work of different kinds, and is variously determined by the different senses. With reference to this various flow of knowledge as due to the senses, it is spoken of as rising and setting, and the Self possesses the quality of an agent. As this quality is not, however, essential, but originated by action, the Self is essentially unchanging. This changeful quality of being a knower can belong only to the Self whose essential nature is knowledge; not possibly to the non-intelligent ahamkâra. But, you will perhaps say, the ahamkâra, although of non-intelligent nature, may become a knower in so far as by approximation to intelligence it becomes a reflection of the latter. How, we ask in return, is this becoming a reflection of intelligence imagined to take place? Does consciousness become a reflection of the ahamkâra, or does the ahamkâra become a reflection of consciousness? The former alternative is inadmissible, since you will not allow to consciousness the quality of being a knower; and so is the latter since, as explained

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above, the non-intelligent ahamkâra can never become a knower. Moreover, neither consciousness nor the ahamkâra are objects of visual perception. Only things seen by the eye have reflections.--Let it then be said that as an iron ball is heated by contact with fire, so the consciousness of being a knower is imparted to the ahamkâra through its contact with Intelligence.--This view too is inadmissible; for as you do not allow real knowership to Intelligence, knowership or the consciousness of knowership cannot be imparted to the ahamkâra by contact with Intelligence; and much less even can knowership or the consciousness of it be imparted to Intelligence by contact with the essentially non-intelligent ahamkâra. Nor can we accept what you say about 'manifestation.' Neither the ahamkâra, you say, nor Intelligence is really a knowing subject, but the ahamkâra manifests consciousness abiding within itself (within the ahamkâra), as the mirror manifests the image abiding within it. But the essentially non-intelligent ahamkâra evidently cannot 'manifest' the self-luminous Self. As has been said 'That the non-intelligent ahamkâra should manifest the self-luminous Self, has no more sense than to say that a spent coal manifests the Sun.' The truth is that all things depend for their proof on self-luminous consciousness; and now you maintain that one of these things, viz. the non-intelligent ahamkâra--which itself depends for its light on consciousness--manifests consciousness, whose essential light never rises or sets, and which is the cause that proves everything! Whoever knows the nature of the Self will justly deride such a view! The relation of 'manifestation' cannot hold good between consciousness and the ahamkâra for the further reason also that there is a contradiction in nature between the two, and because it would imply consciousness not to be consciousness. As has been said, 'One cannot manifest the other, owing to contradictoriness; and if the Self were something to be manifested, that would imply its being non-intelligent like a jar.' Nor is the matter improved by your introducing the hand and the sunbeams (above, p. 38), and to say that as the sunbeams while manifesting the hand, are at the

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same time manifested by the hand, so consciousness, while manifesting the ahamkâra, is at the same time itself manifested by the latter. The sunbeams are in reality not manifested by the hand at all. What takes place is that the motion of the sunbeams is reversed (reflected) by the opposed hand; they thus become more numerous, and hence are perceived more clearly; but this is due altogether to the multitude of beams, not to any manifesting power on the part of the hand.

What could, moreover, be the nature of that 'manifestation' of the Self consisting of Intelligence, which would be effected through the ahamkâra? It cannot be origination; for you acknowledge that what is self-established cannot be originated by anything else. Nor can it be 'illumination' (making to shine forth), since consciousness cannot--according to you--be the object of another consciousness. For the same reason it cannot be any action assisting the means of being conscious of consciousness. For such helpful action could be of two kinds only. It would either be such as to cause the connexion of the object to be known with the sense-organs; as e.g. any action which, in the case of the apprehension of a species or of one's own face, causes connexion between the organ of sight and an individual of the species, or a looking-glass. Or it would be such as to remove some obstructive impurity in the mind of the knowing person; of this kind is the action of calmness and self-restraint with reference to scripture which is the means of apprehending the highest reality. Moreover, even if it were admitted that consciousness may be an object of consciousness, it could not be maintained that the 'I' assists the means whereby that consciousness is effected. For if it did so, it could only be in the way of removing any obstacles impeding the origination of such consciousness; analogous to the way in which a lamp assists the eye by dispelling the darkness which impedes the origination of the apprehension of colour. But in the case under discussion we are unable to imagine such obstacles. There is nothing pertaining to consciousness which obstructs the origination of the knowledge of consciousness

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and which could be removed by the ahamkâra.--There is something, you will perhaps reply, viz. Nescience! Not so, we reply. That Nescience is removed by the ahamkâra cannot be admitted; knowledge alone can put an end to Nescience. Nor can consciousness be the abode of Nescience, because in that case Nescience would have the same abode and the same object as knowledge.

In pure knowledge where there is no knowing subject and no object of knowledge--the so-called 'witnessing' principle (sâkshin)--Nescience cannot exist. Jars and similar things cannot be the abode of Nescience because there is no possibility of their being the abode of knowledge, and for the same reason pure knowledge also cannot be the abode of Nescience. And even if consciousness were admitted to be the abode of Nescience, it could not be the object of knowledge; for consciousness being viewed as the Self cannot be the object of knowledge, and hence knowledge cannot terminate the Nescience abiding within consciousness. For knowledge puts an end to Nescience only with regard to its own objects, as in the case of the snake-rope. And the consequence of this would be that the Nescience attached to consciousness could never be destroyed by any one.--If Nescience, we further remark, is viewed as that which can be defined neither as Being nor non-Being, we shall show later on that such Nescience is something quite incomprehensible.--On the other hand, Nescience, if understood to be the antecedent non-existence of knowledge, is not opposed in nature to the origination of knowledge, and hence the dispelling of Nescience cannot be viewed as promoting the means of the knowledge of the Self.--From all this it follows that the ahamkâra cannot effect in any way 'manifestation of consciousness.'

Nor (to finish up this point) can it be said that it is the essential nature of manifesting agents to manifest things in so far as the latter have their abode in the former; for such a relation is not observed in the case of lamps and the like (which manifest what lies outside them). The essential

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nature of manifesting agents rather lies therein that they promote the knowledge of things as they really are, and this is also the nature of whatever promotes knowledge and the means thereof. Nor is it even true that the mirror manifests the face. The mirror is only the cause of a certain irregularity, viz. the reversion of the ocular rays of light, and to this irregularity there is due the appearance of the face within the mirror; but the manifesting agent is the light only. And it is evident that the ahamkâra is not capable of producing an irregularity (analogous to that produced by the mirror) in consciousness which is self-luminous.--And--with regard to the second analogous instance alleged by you--the fact is that the species is known through the individual because the latter is its substrate (as expressed in the general principle, 'the species is the form of the individual'), but not because the individual 'manifests' the species. Thus there is no reason, either real or springing from some imperfection, why the consciousness of consciousness should be brought about by its abiding in the ahamkâra, and the attribute of being the knowing agent or the consciousness of that cannot therefore belong to the ahamkâra. Hence, what constitutes the inward Self is not pure consciousness but the 'I' which proves itself as the knowing subject. In the absence of egoity, 'inwardness' could not be established for consciousness.

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