The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 14
We continue the discussion initiated in the Mantra 6.2 bhāṣya:
Knowledge of absence is also a knowledge per se and hence ‘absence’ is a mere word without any substance. In absolute terms knowledge cannot be an absence and ephemeral. Just by superimposing a name ‘absence’ to the eternal consciousness (by the Buddhist), nothing is lost by the Vedāntin.
If ‘absence’ is knowable (object) and at the same time is different from the knowing consciousness, then the absence of the knowable is the same as absence of knowledge (of that absence). If it is said: the knowable is different from the knowing consciousness, but the knowledge is not different from the knowable, then it is mere words without any difference in content. It is akin to saying ‘vahni (fire) is different from agni (fire) but agni is not different from fire’. If the knowledge is different from the knowable, then in the absence of the knowable, the defect of absence of knowledge is certain.
If it is said that in the absence of the knowable, the knowing consciousness too is absent, this is not admissible since the Buddhist has admitted the presence of the objectless consciousness in the state of deep sleep. If it is said that they admit the objecthood of even that consciousness by that very consciousness itself, then we do not admit that since the difference (between the known and the knower) is quite apparent. This is because the bheda, difference, is verily present. There is indeed the difference between the knowable absence and the knowledge that comprehends this knowable absence. The knower-known difference cannot be ignored. Nor is there the defect of infinite regress in the case of those other than the Buddhists. The Vedāntins admit of only the whole group of known, jñeya, and the consciousness that objectifies it, jñānam. That is all. No entity other than this jñānam is admitted and hence there is no infinite regress. If it is objected that ‘if the knowing consciousness is not an object of any other distinct knower, there is no way of being omniscient.’ This is no defect for the Vedāntin and hence he need not labor to refute it. The defect of infinite regress is unavoidable for the Bauddha. His knowledge is undoubtedly a knowable one. But he holds it to be not a knowable one. If he turns this objection on to the Vedāntin, we have a remedy to it: Jñānam is indeed One. It is One Consciousness that appears, owing to avidyā-created name-form upādhis, as varied at various times and places just as the sun appears variously as reflected in different water bodies. This is no defect.
Objection: The Puruṣa is limited in the body, just as berries placed in a vessel, as per this very mantra.
Reply: Not so. It is because of His being the cause of the parts such as the prāṇa. He who is confined to the body cannot be admitted to be the cause/knower of the effects such as prāṇa and śraddhā. The body too is only an effect of the parts. The body, which is itself the effect of the parts that are themselves effects in turn of the Puruṣa, cannot be held to confine within itself (the body) the Puruṣa who is the ultimate Cause (of the body), just as berries are confined within a vessel.
Objection: Why can’t it be a case akin to the seed-tree? A tree which is the effect of a seed, confines within itself the fruit which is an effect of the tree, and the ultimate cause, the seed, of the fruit too, such as the mango. [The mango tree is an effect of a seed. The tree has within itself its effect the mango fruit. The seed (inside the fruit) is the ultimate cause of the tree and even the fruit] Similarly, why can’t the body, the final effect, be admitted to be confining within itself its ultimate cause, the Puruṣa?
Reply: No, since there is this difference between the example and the case on hand: that seed which is the ultimate cause is different from the seed(s) that the fruit confines within itself. Not so the Puruṣa who is the ultimate cause any different from the one who is stated to be within the body. The Upaniṣad teaches that that very Puruṣa who is the ultimate Cause is the one that resides within the body. Also, in the case of the seed, trees, etc., since they are objects with parts, sāvayava, there can be the relation of ādhāra-ādheya, support and the supported. On the contrary, the Upaniṣadic Puruṣa is niravayava, without any parts. And the parts (kalā-s) and the gross body are endowed with parts. Thus, while even the idea that ether, ākāśa, is ‘supported’ by (confined within) the body is unreasonable, what to say about the Puruṣa who is the cause of even ether? Hence, the analogy is unequal.
Objection: What is the use of an analogy here when the very śruti says clearly that the Puruṣa is confined to the gross body?
Reply: No, the śruti is not an impeller, inducer, of action. The Vedic word does not bring about the distortion of the thing on hand. Then what does it indeed do? It produces the right knowledge, as it is. Thus, the śruti instruction ‘the Puruṣa resides ‘inside’ the gross body’ only means the same as what is meant by saying ‘space exists inside the egg.’ The idea is that space, which is really without any limitation, does exist in a boundary. By that much it does not become confined or limited to the boundary. Also, there is another important reason why the Puruṣa is taught as existing in the body. It is to enable the aspirant to know, cognize, realize, the Puruṣa within his body, very close to himself, as really himself. All the actions the jīva performs such as seeing, smelling, thinking, speaking and going take place only with the sentient entity, the Consciousness, called the Puruṣa, existing within. That which impels all action is this Puruṣa though without doing anything really. It is by mere presence does the Puruṣa enable all these activities in the body, in the person. Hence the śruti specifies that the Puruṣa is within the body. It is impossible to cognize and realize the Puruṣa outside the body, in the physical, inert, world of matter. Never even a fool, much less the Śruti which is the ultimate pramāṇa (means of right knowledge) would ever say that the Ultimate Cause of the entire creation, including the most subtle and limitless ether, is confined to the gross body like berries placed inside a bowl.
स ईक्षाञ्चक्रे कस्मिन्नहमुत्क्रान्त उत्क्रान्तो भविष्यामि कस्मिन्वा प्रतिष्ठिते प्रतिष्ठास्यामीति ॥ ३ ॥
स He ईक्षाञ्चक्रे reflected/deliberated कस्मिन् by whose अहम् I उत्क्रान्ते departing उत्क्रान्तः depart भविष्यामि will I कस्मिन् by whose वा or प्रतिष्ठिते stay प्रतिष्ठास्यामि will I stay इति thus
- 3. The Puruṣa reflected, “What is it by whose departure I shall depart and by whose staying I shall stay?”
The sixteen parts, kalās, have been taught as originating from this Puruṣa. And this was stated with a view to identify the Puruṣa. Since the Upaniṣadic Puruṣa is absolutely beyond all attributes, it becomes impossible to instruct about Him. Hence, identification marks are to be presumed, superposed, on Him solely with a view to enable the aspirant to identify Him; appreciate His presence. The other purpose of the specifying that the sixteen parts have emerged from the Puruṣa is to also teach the order, krama, in which they manifested. It is also to inform us that the creation is from a sentient entity and not any inert source. That Puruṣa of sixteen parts of whom the sixth aspirant Bhāradwāja was asked (by the prince Hiraṇyanābha), deliberated on the creation, its fruit and the order of manifesting. How did he deliberate? ‘Upon whose (particular doer’s i.e. jīva’s) departing (from the gross body) will I too depart and upon whose stay (in the gross body) will I too remain?’
Delineation of the Sāṅkhya doctrine:
Objection: Ātmā is akartā, devoid of any action and the Pradhāna is the kartā, doer/performer. Keeping in mind the supreme benefit of the ātmā the Pradhāna initiates the creation in the form of mahat, etc. Hence it is inappropriate that the Puruṣa (sentient being) is independently the cause of the creation by deliberation. When the creator Pradhāna that is the state of equilibrium of the guṇa-s sattva, etc. is present as backed by authority (pramāṇa) , or while the subtle atoms, paramāṇu-s, are present impelled by an Īśwara, it is unreasonable to propose a creation by the Ātman. Why? The Ātman is admitted as One only without any instrument/material with which he could create. Also, Ātman would not logically bring about a creation where everything is detrimental to the Ātman’s interest. In other words, a sentient Ātman would not create a world full of misery and other defects. Therefore it would be correct to conclude that it is the Pradhāna, though insentient, is taught, by courtesy, in this Upaniṣad to indulge in a creation preceded by deliberation of the benefit to the sentient Ātman, as though a sentient entity would. This is akin to holding an officer to be the king, by courtesy, by virtue of the former performing everything required by the king.