[Advaita-l] Self Luminosity of consciusness-3 by Vaibhavji

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 7 22:43:03 CST 2012

Consciousness is self-luminous because it is consciousness
(awareness) unlike a jar.

This is an only negative inference. All the positive instances are included in
the paksha and hence the inference has to be understood as whatever is not
consciousness is not self-luminous and vica versa. Hence here the udharana or
example is negative, it exhibits the concomitance of absence of sadhya (thing
to be proved) where there is absence of hetu (reason). The opponent here brings
out the charge of sadhyaprassidhi on the Advaitin. In Nyaya there is the
condition for inference that there must be an invariable concomitance between
the probans (hetu) and the probandum (probandum). This invariable relation
fails to be materialized if either the probans or the probandum be an
altogether unknown fact, for a relation between two unknown facts or an unknown
fact and a known fact is inconceivable. If the probans are unknown it
constitutes the fallacy of sadhanaprassidhi and if the probandum is unknown it
constitutes the fallacy of sadhyaprassidhi. The above fallacies also occur even
when either the probans or the probandum are known existent facts but are
qualified by unknown or non-existent predicates. Here the advaitin is trying to
prove that consciousness is self-luminous in a manner defined above. But we
cannot define things into existence. The property of self-luminosity is
completely unknown, what proof do we have for it. The Advaitins retort by a
counter syllogism, which runs as follows:

Knowability is a property and is thus subject to absolute negation in some

In this way unknowability in a particular substrate is established, it implies
the presence of such a property as self-luminosity. Unknowability is one of the
characteristic marks of self-luminosity and is thus established by inference.
Since Knowability is subject to negation in some substrate, there may be some
locus which possesses unknowability. The opponent counters this by an
inference: "If consciousness is not a content of awareness (unknowable),
then it cannot be a real entity." But it may be replied that consciousness
does not need to be a content of awareness to be real, it may be self-luminous.
The other mark of self-luminosity viz. immediate apprehension is established
through another inference thus:

That object is immediately apprehended which if it were not would lead to such
undesirable consequences like infinite regress etc.

For Sri Citsukha self-luminosity of consciousness forms the very basis for any
activity, cognitive or conative. In apprehending an object we also apprehend
our apprehension of the object. If this was not the case and we needed another
awareness to become aware of the presence of awareness in us, then to be aware
of this awareness we would require another awareness and then a still another
one and so on ad infinitum. Consequently we may never know that we know and we
would ever be in doubt whether awareness has occurred in us or not. This doubt
would lead to a complete failure of our cognitive and conative systems. We act
not just on the basis of our knowledge of an object but also on the knowledge
that we know the object. If this feature is left out, we can never say or
believe that we have experience. We never have a doubt in the form: has the
knowledge of the pot arisen in me or not? We speak, think and act because of
the light of consciousness illuminates all. Thus it is reasonable to conclude
that we are immediately aware of our awareness of an object. To quote Sri
Citsukha: "If at the time of cognizing a content, the experience were also
not cognized, then in the instant following the awareness of the content the
person desiring knowledge of this object will doubt his experience (have I had
this awareness or not), or else may have a contrary experience (I have had the
awareness of non-existence of this object), or have a directly opposite
experience (I did not have that experience). But when the individual is asked
in the instant following his experience he neither expresses doubt nor admits
of a contrary experience nor of one directly opposite, but he firmly says, `I
have seen this thing'. Therefore it is reasonable that consciousness being
self-luminous produces practical activity concerning the content."
Considering the possibility of awareness being the content of another awareness
Sri Citsukha says: "Just as the eye etc. are not self-luminous (but are
illumined by something other than themselves), so too will awareness be
produced by an awareness which is other than itself and consequently awareness
will not be the cause of practical activity with respect to an object.
Furthermore since insentient objects are neither self-luminous nor illumine
each other, they cannot be luminous. On this model awareness too will be
non-luminous. And if awareness is non-luminous the entire world will remain in
darkness". This refutes the Nyaya theory of anuvyavasaya which says that
cognition is not self-apprehended but is cognized by another cognition. Just as
the existence of ordinary objects are established on the basis of our cognitions
of them similarly the existence of cognition is established by cognizing the
same. To defend this thesis Nyaya brings out an inference: "Cognition is
knowable because it is an actual object like a jar". This would refute
both the unknowability of awareness and also their immediacy. Sri Citsukha
retorts that for the inference to succeed there will have to be an awareness of
pervasion between Knowability and being an actual object, but it may be asked
is this awareness which is aware of the said pervasion is itself self-illumined
or not, if it is then the opponent would have conceded the point to the
proponent, if not then the inference would fail since one is not aware of an
awareness of the pervasion and if there is no awareness of the pervasion then how
will the inference succeed. The point is that self-luminosity is the very basis
for pramanas to work. The Advaitin by putting forward a syllogism is not
literally establishing self-luminosity of consciousness for it is self-proved
except ofcourse for its opponents, but for the Advaitin it is nothing but a
reinforcement of an intuition. The Pramanas have their very being; owe their
very function due to the self-luminosity of consciousness; consciousness is the
transcendental condition for the pramanas to be, for otherwise the world would
be nothing but darkness. This establishes the second mark of self-luminosity
and the fallacy of sadhya-prasiddhi is averted. 

The opponent says that the Advaitin's argument is something like this: "A
Jar is self-luminous, because it is a jar. That, which is not like this, is not
a jar." But as a matter of fact a jar is illumined by sense-perception and
hence we are directly aware of the absence of self-luminosity in a jar and
consequently the case is not analogous.

The opponent now brings the charge of svarupasiddhi and ashrayasiddhi. The
former fallacy arises when the middle term is absent from the minor term (when
fire is inferred on a hill the middle term smoke has to be perceived on that
hill) and the latter arises when the minor term is unreal. The argument is that
the middle term, consciousness (which is not pure consciousness but apparently
for the opponent is empirical cognition or reflected consciousness), does not
reside in pure consciousness, hence the fallacy of svarupasiddhi, and pure
consciousness which is the minor term is single and homogenous with no
plurality, consequently it lacks a distinguishing mark that separates it from
other things, but for the Advaitins pure consciousness has no other. Because pure
consciousness lacks a distinguishing mark the minor term should be regarded as
unreal or imaginary and thus unfit to be the minor term of an inference. To the
charge of svarupasiddhi the Advaitin replies that from the absolute point of
view pure consciousness is unempirical but considering from the domain of
avidya empirical cognitions exist. In the above inference we take the middle
term not as particular cognitions but from a general point of view of being a
cognition and hence attributable to pure consciousness, the minor term. All
particular cognitions, because they are nothing but pure consciousness, possess
the generic character of being consciousness though from an empirical point of
view we have to consider its difference from the original consciousness. Pure
consciousness possessed of such a generality would contradict Advaita from an
absolute standpoint but not from an empirical standpoint. To the charge of
ashrayasiddhi, Sri Citsukha replies that we can take pure consciousness to be
possessed of the distinguishing mark of `experience-ness' or the property of
`being a cognition', since again here as in the former objection we are making
considerations from the empirical point of view. But a distinguishing mark is
class property which resides in many different entities; experiences are varied
for the opponent but for the proponent there exists but the single pure
consciousness. Thus there is no validity of a class property like
`experience-ness'. To this the immediate retort is that just as moon-hood can
be considered as an appropriate class property when moon, though one is
reflected in many different mediums, similarly one pure consciousness is
reflected in many internal organs which act as their upadhis or limiting
adjuncts, consequently from the empirical point of view the class property of
experience-ness is valid and hence the distinguishing mark of pure
consciousness as mere `experience-ness', holds. Note here that moon-ness would
be a class property for the opponent too which in this case is Nyaya, the
reason this was necessary was because the middle term has to be acceptable to
both the disputing parties. The reader should here recollect the difference
between reflected consciousness and original consciousness made earlier. The
two objections considered above arised because the difference between the two
was obliterated even from an empirical standpoint, the opponent conflated
absolute and relative standpoints, a distinction central to the tenets of
Advaita. Also there was some ambiguity in the Advaitin's middle term which
needed to be removed. The whole argument thus comes to this that pure
consciousness is self-luminous because it is of the nature of `apprehension'
(which is not a particular experience or cognition but a general mark of any particular
cognition or experience), unlike any entity which does not possess this
distinguishing mark, which as it turns out are all material objects or objects
of pure consciousness, for anything different from pure consciousness is a
material object and hence insentient (even an empirical cognition). This is a
consideration purely from the empirical domain for we don't make inferential
arguments from a transcendental domain at all. Thus Sri Padmapada says in his
Panchapadika: "When consciousness appears in connection with other objects
and manifests them it is called experience (anubhava) and when it is by itself
it is called the self or the Atman (pure self-revealing consciousness)."
Consciousness reveals objects when they are illusorily superimposed on it which
happens in the realm of avidya.

Sri Citsukha next argues that the Self is self-luminous because it is of the
nature of awareness. We never doubt our own existence, to deny this is to
contradict oneself. The Self exists in all three states of waking, dream and
deep sleep and is immediately intuited. If the self would be nothing but a
succession of mental states or functions then in deep sleep when such mental
states have ceased there should be an end to the notion of the identity of the
self and a man waking up should have been different from the man who slept. Our
notion of Self is derived from the Atman though under the influence of avidya
we regard ourselves as psychophysical beings. Our sense of ego too is not
essential to us for it is absent in deep sleep. At such a time it is only
because of the self-luminosity of the Atman that acts as the substratum of our
sense of individuality which otherwise would have been lost. The identity of
the self is because of the identity of the Self.




More information about the Advaita-l mailing list