[Advaita-l] Fw: Re: [advaitin] Self-Luminosity of Consciousness

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 7 22:27:12 CST 2012


As explained by Vaibhavji

Hari Om!

--- On Sat, 1/7/12, Vaibhav Narula <vaibhav_narula21 at yahoo.co.in> wrote:

From: Vaibhav Narula <vaibhav_narula21 at yahoo.co.in>
Subject: Re: [advaitin] Self-Luminosity of Consciousness
To: "kuntimaddi sadananda" <kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com>
Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012, 12:03 PM

Namaste Sada-ji,                           The article on Self-luminosity that I have posted is incomplete. I have also written another section in which I compare the views of contemporary western philosophers with advaita vedanta. If you think it right you may also post that section in advaitaL list. I have attached the file in which the complete article is present.




Sri Citsukha was an eminent Advaitin scholar in the 13th Century A.D. His most important works are: 1. Adhikaranamanjari: a brief summary of contents of the adhikaranas in Sri Sankara's Brahmasutra Bhashya. 2. Abhiprayaprakasika: A commentary on Sri Mandana Mishra's Brahmasiddhi 3. Bhavaprakasika: a commentary on Sri Sankara's Brahmasutrabhashya where he reconciles the differences between the Vivarana and Bhamati Schools. 4. Bhavadipika: a famous commentary on Sri Harsha's Khandanakhandakhadya (sweetmeat of refutations). 5. Tattvaprakasika: a commentary on Sri Suresvara's Naishkarmaya Siddhi. 6. Vivriti: a commentary on Sri Anandabodha's Nyayamakaranda. 7. Vivati: a commentary on Sri Anandhabodha's Pramanamala. 8. Tatparyadipika: a commentary on Sri Prakasataman Muni's Panchapadika Vivarana. 9. Tattva Pradipika: an original treatise the purpose of which is to defend Advaita and criticize the viewpoints of its opponents. The first section of this work
 contains a systematic discussion on self-luminosity of consciousness. We will be concerned with this part of the book.


To understand the rigorous dialectical discourse of Sri Citsukha it is imperative to have some knowledge of Nyaya logic. Inference or anumana in Nyaya is a pramana, it leads to valid knowledge of some object based on another object which acts as a sign or mark for the presence of the former object. The previous knowledge of invariable concomitance between the sign and the signified and the knowledge of their presence in a certain locus based on the above said relation leads to anumana. To illustrate with the help of an example, someone notices smoke on a mountain. Smoke reminds him of fire and also that he has noticed their co-presence in a kitchen or a hearth and their co-absence in a lake and thus he knows that smoke is invariably accompanied by fire. Based on this knowledge of invariable concomitance (vyapti) between smoke and fire, the person believes that the smoke on the mountain also must be accompanied by fire and he concludes this must be the
 case. Here the Naiyayika is not saying that psychologically we always go through this long process when we infer something for a difference is made between inference for oneself and for another. When we present our inferential knowledge we always do so in a syllogistic form and the above description was of a way to convey one's inferential knowledge. The Nyaya syllogism consists of five steps:

1. Theory (Pratijna): The Mountain possesses fire

2. Reason (hetu): because of smoke

3. Example (udharana): where there is smoke there is fire as in a kitchen

4. Application (upanaya): This Mountain similarly possesses smoke which is invariable concomitant with fire

5. Conclusion (nigamana): Therefore the mountain possesses fire.

Here smoke is the hetu or the middle term, fire is the sadhya or the major term and mountain is the paksha or the minor term. The instances which have the co-presence of the smoke and fire is the sapaksha and where such a relation is not found that is called the vipaksha.

It should be noted that all examples brought in an argument and counter argument to support an empirical generalization must be acceptable to both the parties. 

There are three different types of inferences in Nyaya:

1. Kevalanvayi (only positive): when the hetu and the sadhya have only a sapaksha but no vipaksha. For example: All that is knowable is nameable. The pot is knowable and hence is nameable. Here knowable and nameable pervade the whole world and hence there is no instance where their co-absence may be found. (For Nyaya there is no instance where knowability and nameability are absent).

2. Kevala Vyatireki (only negative): here the hetu and sadhya have no positive instance of agreement in presence. An example will suffice here: no non-soul is animate. All living beings are animate. Therefore all living beings have souls. Here the hetu `animate' is said to be found only in living beings or beings possessing a soul and nowhere else and hence no positive instance apart from the disputed case can be found. Therefore the concomitance is established negatively, between absence of possessing a soul and absence of `animate-ness'. 

3. Anvaya Vyatireki (Agreement in presence and absence): Here the hetu and sadhya are both positively and negatively related to each other like in the mountain fire and smoke example.

Inference takes place always when there is pervasion or vyapti between two objects which act as sign and the signified. However vyapti may be of different types or degrees. When the relation between the hetu and the sadhya is in an unfailing relation, here both the objects may act as the sign and signified for each other. For example something is sinful because it is prohibited in the Vedas and something is prohibited in the Vedas because it is sinful. Then there may be an instance where only one object forms the sign for another but not vica verse. For example one may infer fire on the basis of smoke but not vica verse as fire does not pervade smoke like in a red hot iron ball. Thirdly two objects may be mutually exclusive for example the class of cows and the class of horses, where the one is the other is not and hence there is a relation of exclusion between them. 

In Nyaya there are no fallacies but blockers or preventers. The so called fallacies in Nyaya block the awareness or cognition of an inference to arise or they themselves may be cognitions that oppose the awareness of inference to arise. Mostly they are based on deviation between the hetu and the sadhya, either there is some instance where the hetu is and sadhya is not or their relation may be conditional. This brings us to the theory of upadhi. Upadhi is something that pervades the sadhya but does not pervade the hetu and hence blocks an inference. For example in the inference mountain has smoke because it has fire, fuel is the upadhi, it pervades instances of smoke but not of fire for fire may be present in a red hot iron ball.

Tarka is that which removes any doubt about the invariable concomitance between two objects. It starts with an assumption based on the denial of vyapti and shows how it leads to absurdities. For example: If the soul was not eternal, then it may not experience the fruits of past life and hence it is eternal.

There are four kinds of absence in Nyaya: a) prior absence, this is the status of an object when it is absent before its production b) posterior absence, this refers to an object that has been destroyed c) absolute absence, this is absence of an object in a locus in all three periods of time and d) mutual absence, this is absence of identity between two objects. The entity negated is called the pratiyogin or counterpositive of the negation, for example, when we say a pot is absent from the floor, the pot is the pratiyogin or the counterpositive.

This is a very short account of a subject which needs volumes to be expressed in but nevertheless it is sufficient for our current purposes.


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: 

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 substrate.

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





More information about the Advaita-l mailing list