The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 13
Continuing the mantra 6.1:
Sukeśa, the sixth aspirant, who has now got his turn to pose the questions to the exalted Āchārya Pippalāda narrates an incident setting the background to his question:
Venerable Sir, a prince by name Hiraṇyanābha of the Kosala region, a kṣatriya by birth, approached me and asked, ‘O, Bhāradwāja (Sukeśa)! Do you know the one endowed with the sixteen parts?’
[The sixteen parts, conjured up by ignorance, avidyā. The person thus endowed is called ṣoḍaśakalaḥ puruṣaḥ, the sixteen-parted person.]
I replied him, the prince who asked the question, ‘No, I do not know the person of whom you ask.’
Though I replied him thus, he doubted my ignorance of that Puruṣa. Hence, in order to reassure him I further said, ‘Had I known that Puruṣa you ask of, why indeed would I not tell you who have approached me with such humility and genuine desire to know this?’ Finding him still in disbelief about my not knowing the answer, I told him, ‘He who pretends to know while in truth does not know and speaks a lie will be totally doomed. He will not qualify for anything worthwhile either here or in the hereafter. Since I am aware of this unfailing rule, I will not speak a lie as only a fool would do.’
As I said this, the prince, convinced, left the place, as even he arrived, abashed, silently.
From the narrated incident we deduce that the knower has to certainly impart the knowledge to the one who, endowed with humility and sincerity, approaches with genuine thirst for knowledge. And untruth should be eschewed at all times.
Sukeśa posed his question: ‘Respected Sir, I ask you of that Puruṣa, who has to be known by me, as this question pricks like a thorn in my heart. Where does this Puruṣa exist?’
तस्मै स होवाचेहैवान्तःशरीरे सोम्य स पुरुषो यस्मिन्नेताः षोडश कलाः प्रभवन्तीति ॥ २ ॥
तस्मै to him स Pippalāda ह indeed उवाच replied इह here एव itself अन्तःशरीरे inside the body सोम्य O dear one स that पुरुषः Puruṣa यस्मिन् where एताः these षोडश sixteen कलाः parts प्रभवन्ति arise इति thus
Pippalāda said to him: That Person—He from whom these sixteen parts arise—is verily here within the body.
The Āchārya, Sage Pippalāda, replied: O, good looking one, here, inside this very body, in the space within the heart-lotus, that Puruṣa resides. He need not be searched for in any distant location.
A fine adhyāropa-apavāda method is employed by the Śruti here. The sixteen parts that are to be enumerated in the sequel, consisting of prāṇa, etc. that originate, as though, in that Puruṣa, are only upādhis conjured up by avidyā. These make the Puruṣa appear as though limited by them. The purpose of specifying the sixteen parts, the upādhis, is to enable the identification of the Puruṣa, who is in truth, without any upādhis, and therefore beyond any identification. After specifying the upādhis as though belonging to the Puruṣa, the negation of these very upādhis, through vidyā, knowledge, is made so as to directly realize the Puruṣa in his true, upādhi-free, state. The Puruṣa, the Upaniṣadic Truth, is never an object of the senses and mind. He is non-dual, without any second of any kind whatsoever. This Truth is pure, uncontaminated by anything whatsoever of the created world. This is because this Puruṣa is untouched by creation as he transcends all created effects, both in their causal and in their manifest form. In fact without superimposing the parts it is impossible to bring this Puruṣa within the purview of discourse consisting of ‘that which is to be established’ (pratipādya) and the means, upāya, that establish him (pratipādaka). With this avowed purpose the Upaniṣad superimposes the origin, sustenance and dissolution of the sixteen kalā-s, the upādhis, on the Puruṣa. These kalā-s are products of avidyā.
The upādhis, in all their states, of origination, sustenance and dissolution, are experienced as not separate from the Consciousness. This is akin to what is observed in the world in the case of, say, clay and clay-products. The latter, in all their three phases of origin, existence and destruction, are seen not being separated from the former, their cause. A pot is produced from clay, remains as a clay-pot alone always and upon destruction, becomes one with clay alone. From this observation we conclude that the clay-products are non-different from their cause, the clay. And, more importantly, the clay-products, as products, which are only effects, are not real in the sense that they are mere names and forms which do not remain in all three periods of time unlike the clay. In other words, before the effects were produced, the clay remained. After the effects were manifested, the clay remains and upon the destruction of the names and forms, the clay remains. Hence, that alone which remains always is real and that which remains only in the period of their existence is false. Similarly the sixteen parts, the upādhis, are to be deduced to be false and the Puruṣa alone is to be recognized, realized, as real.
Without knowing the above, there are several views advanced by those deluded ones who call themselves ‘thinkers’:
Just like clarified butter (ghee), by the contact of fire/heat, takes on one or the other form, by melting, consciousness alone, taking the form of a pot, etc., originates and destroys, every moment. This is a reference to the kṣaṇika-vijñāna vādins, also called ‘yogāchāra-s’ of the Bauddhas. When consciousness ends, everything subsists as a void – so say the śuṇyavādins, the nihilists, the mādhyamikas, among the Bauddhas. The naiyāyikas (logicians) hold that the conscious perceptions of pot, etc. happen and disappear to the eternally conscious one who perceives them. The materialists, lokāyatika-s, hold that consciousness is an attribute of matter.
It is the conclusion of the Veda that Ātman, verily consciousness alone, that is devoid of origin and destruction, appears with upādhis as specified by these passages: ‘satyam jñānam anantam brahma’ (‘Existence, Consciousness and Infinite is Brahman’) – Taittiriya upaniṣad 2,1,1, ‘prajñānam brahma’ (‘Consciousness, untainted Knowledge, is Brahman’) – (Aitareya upaniṣad 3.1.3, ‘vijñānam ānandam brahma’ (‘Consciousness, Bliss is Brahman’) – Bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad 3.9.28, ‘vijñānaghana eva’ (‘It is untainted Intelligence’) – ibid 2.4.12.
Here is an excellent exercise in appreciating the unfailing Consciousness. In our perceptions, we find that the object known is replaced by another object whenever our perception changes from one object to another. Yet, the knowledge, perception, had does not change. ‘A’ is known in a certain instant and ‘B’ is known in the next instant. The object of the knowledge changes but the fact of knowing and knowledge arising does not change. We cannot say ‘there is something but it is not known.’ It would be akin to saying ‘a form is perceived but I have no eyes.’ A knowable object could be inconstant in relation to knowledge but knowledge is never inconstant with a knowable object. This is because, even if an object ‘X’ is absent, the knowledge can grasp another object ‘Y’. In the absence of knowledge there is no way one can say there is an object that is knowable. In other words, the existence of the object is dependent on the knowledge had thereof. With a view to firmly establish that Consciousness is never inconstant, ever existent, an dialogue is initiated:
[See also the commentary of Śaṅkarāchārya for the Bhagavadgītā verse: 2.16]
Objection: In the state of deep sleep one has no knowledge of anything. Hence, like the object known that is subject to being inconstant, even knowledge (consciousness) is inconstant. That is, there is a state where there is failure of knowledge, consciousness.
Reply: Not so. A lamp illumines an object and thus we are able to perceive the object. Just because the object to be illumined is absent, one cannot say the lamp is absent. Similarly, Consciousness illumines objects. Just because objects are not grasped in deep sleep one cannot deny the presence of Consciousness. The nihilist, śūnyavādin, cannot deny the existence of the eye just because objects are not seen in darkness.
Objection: The nihilist indeed denies the consciousness in the absence of the knowable object.
Reply: In that case the nihilist has to reply to the question: By which consciousness does the nihilist perceive the absence of the knower-consciousness? This is because even the absence of the knowing-consciousness is a knowable object alone, in the absence of knowing that absence, his declaration is meaningless.
Objection: Since the knowing consciousness is non-different from the knowable object, the absence (non-existence) of the former follows the absence of the latter.
Reply: This cannot be since the nihilist admits that non-existence is a knowable. He holds non-existence too to be a knowable and eternal. Since (you say) the absence of the knowable (jñeyābhāvaḥ) is non-different from the consciousness, then it (the knowing-consciousness) will have to be admitted as being eternal. (this is because, he has admitted abhāva to be eternal. He also admits that the knowledge of abhāva is non-different from the abhāva of the jñeya. Then, that knowledge is to be admitted to be eternal.)