Conciousness - Eternal?

Chandran, Nanda (NBC) Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Tue Mar 31 09:44:11 CST 1998

Recently we'd a discussion on the concept of emptiness and I guess we
logically arrived at the conclusion that
1. If emptiness is true, it cannot be experential
2. Thus finally for any theory there has to be an experiencer.

Yesterday I was reading the Milindapanha. The text is basically a record
of the meeting between King Menander and Theravada Bouddha bhikshu
Nagasena. The King asks about the nature of conciousness :

Nagasena : If a man were to light a lamp, could it give light throughout
the whole night?

Milinda : Yes, it could.

N : Is now the flame which burns in the first watch of the night the
same as the one which burns in the second?

M : It is not the same.

N : Or is the flame which burns in the second watch the same as the one
which burns in the last one?

M : It is not the same.

N : Do we then take it that there is one lamp in the first watch of the
night, another in the second, and another again in the third?

M : No, it is just because of the light of the lamp shines throughout
the night.

N : Even so must we understand the collocation of a series of successive
dharmas. At rebirth one dharma arises, while another stops; but the two
processes take place almost simultaneously (i.e.they are continous).
Therefore, the first act of consciousness in the new existence is
neither the same as the last act of consciousness in the previous
existence, nor it is the another.

The above passage indicates that Nagasena refuted the eternal nature of
the Atman.

In the Gaudapadiya karika, the acharya uses the Bouddha metaphor of the
firebrand. The Bouddhas argue that when the firebrand is waved in a
circle, there's actually no circle, but an illusion caused by the waving
act with the firebrand at varying spatial positions. The acharya argues
that though the circle is an illusion, yet without the firebrand which
is itself the substratum of the illusion, the illusion itself cannot be

But does this in anyway prove the eternal nature of the substratum?

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