[Advaita-l] Self Luminosity of consciousness - 2 by Vaibhavji

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 7 22:42:02 CST 2012


Sri Citsukha considers eleven definitions of self-luminosity before accepting
the eleventh one and rejecting the previous ten. He defines self-luminosity as
the capability for empirical usage without being an object of awareness.
Immediately an objection is raised. Is the so called capacity an attribute of
awareness or an indicator (an accidental property)? Either way the definition
would not apply to pure consciousness for it would violate the tenets of
Advaita as there is nothing apart from pure consciousness which is non-dual.
The definition may apply to substratum-consciousness when due to avidya,
consciousness is said to be the substratum of the world but considered in
itself, minus avidya must we then say that consciousness is not self-luminous?
Sri Citsukha replies that `capacity' here has to be interpreted in a technical
way. It means that this capacity never is a counterpositive of an absolute
absence in consciousness. Although in the non-dual state there is no empirical
usage of consciousness yet it is not absolutely devoid of such a capacity. From
the standpoint of avidya there shall always be in consciousness the said
fitness for empirical usage without being objectified. From the absolute
standpoint then we may say although the said fitness is not present, it is not
eternally absent too. This may still sound like consciousness possesses a
specific power or capacity. But this is not so for self-luminosity is the very
nature of consciousness although we express it in a subject-predicate form, as
if consciousness is the possessor of the property of self-luminosity, from the
standpoint of avidya. Sri Citsukha quotes Sri Padmapada's Panchapadika in his
support: "Joy, experience of objects and eternity are the characteristics
of Atman. Although they are not different they appear to be different from pure
consciousness". The import of this whole discussion is that consciousness
is such that it illumines all objects but in itself it is self-revealed, it
does not need anything over and above itself to reveal itself unlike a material
object. But when it is not illuminating objects can we still say that it is
self-luminous? Consider for a moment we define fire as that which has the
ability to burn. But it burns objects only when they come in contact with it.
But yet we may say that even when it is not burning something it still has the
capacity to burn and also that capacity to burn is identical with fire or the
very nature of fire. Same is the case here with consciousness, by its very
nature is self-luminous even when it is illuminating other objects and also
when all duality is absent. It should be noted here that pure consciousness is
self-luminous but not reflected consciousness or consciousness delimited by
mind or the vritti. When there is awareness, we know that we know and we do not
require another cognition to become aware of the fact that we are aware but
this is because Brahma-caitanya is self-luminous. Panchadasi 8.4 says:
"The consciousness reflected in the vritti coincident with the jar
manifests simply the jar. The fact that the jar is known is manifested by
Brahma Caitanya." 8.16 says: "The statement 'this is a jar' is due to
the favor of reflection. The statement 'The jar is known' is due to the favor
of Brahma Caitanya (underlying consciousness)". Buddhi appears to be
sentient and self-luminous because of pure consciousness. Pure consciousness
illumines both the object of knowledge and the knowledge that one knows the
object and thus reflected consciousness too is an object of consciousness. The
definition calls consciousness unknowable to exclude ordinary material objects
like pot etc. from the definition. They being the objects of empirical
cognitions are not self-luminous. But if such is the case then how is it that
we are able to talk about consciousness? To talk about something and say it is
unknown or unknowable is self-contradictory. How again can the Upanishads
inform us about Brahman? The reply is that pure consciousness is not absolutely
unknowable. We have an immediate intuition of consciousness in a manner that is
different from all knowledge we may have of any other object. Even in
perception our awareness of the sense object is mediated by various processes
of sense contact and removal of avidya through the antahkarana vritti. Sense
perception thus comes as the end result of a long causal process to reveal the
object to the subject. But the `intuition' of consciousness does not lie
anywhere at the end of a causal process, our awareness of its presence is
immediate in the full sense of the term. There is no gap between consciousness
and our consciousness of consciousness. This knowledge is not caused in us, we
just seem to have it all along. The only sense in which consciousness is an
object is that we can communicate about it though this nowhere implies that
consciousness then would indeed be captured by the mind in which a sense object
is. For whenever we think about consciousness we conceptualize it and
consciousness by its very nature lies beyond any conceptualization. It
transcends our thoughts for thoughts limit but consciousness knows no
limitations in which it is like space, all-pervading. Whenever consciousness
becomes associated with any cognitive process, any vritti, it becomes reflected
consciousness and not pure consciousness. We can conceptualize about pure
consciousness in order to communicate with it but any such conceptualization is
a superimposition on consciousness and hence we never capture consciousness in
it pure nature, though we never lose it too, for us to capture it in our mind,
later. Consciousness thus is speakable but not knowable. Our speech about a jar
is caused by our awareness of a jar but communicability of consciousness
depends only on its presence and not on a separate awareness about it.
Immediacy of consciousness is found in all our cognitive operations whether it
be thinking or perceiving or inferring, and we know it in a way we know no
other thing. We can think about it, perceive it, infer its presence, but only
remotely for when we think about it, it does not remain thought, when we infer
it, it does not remain the entity inferred. All these cognitive processes
depend on consciousness for their fulfillment but they cannot turn back on
consciousness to reveal it for it is self-revealed. Consequently we speak about
consciousness in negative terms, to say that it immediate is not to ascribe it
a positive property but to deny mediate-ness to it, to say that it is
self-luminous is to deny non-self-luminosity in it. The opponent conflates the
difference between unknowability and unknowability with capacity for
communicability. Thus the definition given is pure consciousness is capable of
empirical usage though unknowable. The capacity of empirical usage is
contingent on there being the domain of avidya yet consciousness is never
absolutely bereft of it. To sum up, "Consciousness is a union of
illumination and existence, illumination constitutes its very being and
nature." Hence the proof of consciousness in Advaita is apodictic. To deny
consciousness is self-contradictory and to affirm it is a tautology, for
consciousness is needed for the very act of denial or affirmation to be.

The definition being given Sri Citsukha moves onto to prove pure consciousness
is self-luminous. The proof is presented syllogistically as follows: 

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list