Sitanath Tattvabhushan.

The philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 online

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id, support and Lord this is self-evident


dtmapratyaya" In several other passages of the
same lectures, the Maharshi says that the finiteness
of the human soul reveals its dependence on the In-
finite Spirit. It were to be wished that the Maharshi
had explained this truth and tried to bring it home
to the intellect of his audience ; for the point is really
of the utmost importance. But one looks in vain
for any satisfactory explanation of the above state-
ment in the Maharshi's writings. What is given is
nothing but the familiar facts of our birth and death
and the perpetual supply of our natural and spiritual
wants, facts from which an inductive inference of
great probability may, indeed, be drawn and has
been drawn by theologians as to our dependence on a
higher spirit, but which reveal no necessary truths
that can fully satisfy our intellects. However. I
must say something as to the source from which the
Maharshi has borrowed the term, dtmapratyaya, and
the difference betweect his interpretation of it and
that given by those who originally used it. "He
admits that he borrows it from the Mdndukya Upani-
shad, which expressly represent s the Supreme Being
as the object of dtmapratyaya. But in borrowing
it the Maharshi changes its meaning almost radi-
cally and denudes it of much of its significance.
As this point seems to be a very important one, I
shall quote the whole passage in which the term
occurs and compare the meaning given to it by the
Maharshi with that given to it by Sankaracharya in
his commentary on the Upanishads. The Mdndukya
Upanishad treats of the four states of the self the

Atmapratijaya IN THE Upanishads. 95

self which, either in man or in Nature, it teaches to
be one and indivisible. Having spoken of the first
three states, namely, the waking, the dreaming, and
the profoundly sleeping, it speaks of the fourth,
which, according to it, is the highest, in the following
woi intaprajnamna bahiJiprajnamnobhayatah-

prajnuhi )int>riijitain nnprajnam. Adrtxltfum avyava
ht'iryam a<i n't In/am (dt(kslicina)ii arliintyam avi/apade-
divam adcaitam chaturtham many ante sa dtmd sa
rijneyah" In the first volume of my Devamigarl and
English edition of the Upanishads, I translate the
passage thus : ' ' That which is not conscious of internal
objects nor of external objects, nor of objects in the
middle state, which is not the concentration of know-
ledge, which is neither conscious nor unconscious,
which is unseen, which cannot be used, which is
intangible, undefinable, inconceivable, indescribable,
object of the intuition of one self, beyond the five
*es of sensible objects, the undifferenced, the
;, without a second that the wise conceive as the
fourth aspect. He is the Self, he is to be known."
v, I have quoted the whole passage with its
translation, so that you may, if you like, consider it
with reference to the context. But we are not
directly concerned with the explanation of the whole
passage. Our-* chief concern is with the phrase
"ekdtmaprafyayasdram." Both in the lecture refer-
red to and in his Brdhma Dharm<i, the Maharshi
explains it thus : " tikah jagat-kdranam Brahmd-
dtmaprcUyayah sdrani i>rnmdnam yasyddhigame


tat ekdtmapratyayasdrani," ie., "The phrase means,
he for the knowledge of whom there is this sole
proof, namely, the soul's belief, that Brahman, the
cause of the world, exists." Let us now see how
the great commentator, Sankaracharya, explains the
phrase. He says : Jdgradddisthdnesvekoyam dt-
metyavyabhichari yah pratyayah stendnusaraniyam.
Athaivaika dtmapratyuyah sdram pramdnam i/asya
turiyasddhif/ame tat turiyam ekdtmaprati/ayasdram."'
That is, " It is to be followed, i.e., known by the
unchangeable belief that in all the states beginning
with the waking, this Self is the same, or that
transcendent Being is the object of atmapratyaya r
for the knowledge of whom atmapratyaya is the
sole proof." In my own annotations I give an
explanation briefer than, though in strict accordance
with, this. It is: " JAgrudddi-avasthdshu ekah
ayam dtmd vartate iti pratyaya-bishayam, it is the
object of the belief* that this one Self exists in all
the states beginning with the waking." In Sankara's
explanation f dtmapratyaya* evidently means, not
the self's intuition of a reality distinct from itself, a&
the Maharshi renders it, but the intuition of or
relating to the self, the one indivisible self's con-
sciousness of itself. Whereas the Maharshi's
interpretation is dualistic, Sankara's interpretation
is monistic ; and even a superficial study of the
AldndiiL-ya is enough to show that Sankara repre-
sents the sense intended by the composer of the
Upanishad. Thus the Maharshi gives the term
* atmapratyaya ' a meaning entirely his own and

6 ANKARA ON Atmapratyaya. 97

deprives it of the significance it possesses in the
Upanishads and in the Vedantic literature which has
grown out of their teachings, in which it appears
in two other forms, ' asmatj>ratyaya ' and ' aham-
pratyat/a,' meaning exactly the same thing as ' dtma-
l>rntyaya.' In the sense given to it by the Maharshi,
it is only an inference from the finite to the Infinite;
in the Vedantic sense it is the consciousness of self
in its ultimate essence, a consciousness which is
mixed up with error in ignorant minds, but which,
in minds fully enlightened, appears in its unalloyed
form and is identical with our consciousness of
God. I accept the latter sense of the term and shall,
in my fourth lecture, show its full significance as
the basis of true Theism. I shall show that dtina-
/aya is not of the nature of an inference from
our own consciousness of ourselves as finite beings
to a Being entirely distinct from us, but the direct
consciousness of a Being transcending time and
sp'ace and yet constituting the very essence of our
conscious existence. In other words, I shall show
that dtmapratyaya is, in its pure and ultimate
essence, identical with Brah>ita/>ratyay(i. In the
meantime I shall close this lecture with an extract
from Sankara's commentary on the Veddntu Sbtras
in which, ns you will see, he clearly shows the univer-
sal, fundamental and self-evident nature of the
intuition of self and its being the basis of all other
kinds of knowledge. The passage occurs in his
commentary on the seventh aphorism of the thir.d
pada, second chapter, of the Sntras and is as follows :


I shall read every sentence separately with its
translation by Professor Thibaut, slightly altered
by me here and there.

" Na hi dtmd dgantukah kasyachit," says Sankara,
" svayam siddhatvdt." That is, " The Self is not
contingent in the case of any person ; for it is self-

" Na hi dtmd dtmanah pramdnam apekshya sidh-
yati."" " The self is not established by proofs of the
existence of the self."

" Tasya hi pratyakshadini pramdndni asiddha-
prameya-siddhaye upddiyante." "Perception and
other proofs, which are employed in the case of
things not proved, but to be proved, are founded on

" Na hi dkdsddayah paddrthdh pramdndntard-
pekshdh svayam siddhdh kenachit abhyupagam-
yante." " No one assumes such things as ether and
the like as self-evident and needing no proof."

" Atmd tu pramdnddi-vynvahdrdsrayatvdt prdk-
f-va pramdnddi-vyavahdrdt xidhyati." " But the
Self, being itself the condition of employing proofs
and such other things, is accepted as self-evident
even before the employment of proofs and such
other things."

"JVa chn idrisasya nirdkaranam ^ambhavati."
" Nor is it possible to deny such a reality."

"Agantukam hi vastu nirdkriyate na svarupam."-
"For it is only a contingent object that can be
denied, and not that which is self-subsistent."

$ ANKARA ON Atmopratyaya. 99

" I'a eva hi nirdkartd tadevatasya svarupam."
" It is the very essence of him who would deny it."

" No. hi agneraushnam agnind nirdkriyate"
" Fire cannot reject its own warmth."

" Tathd aham iddnim jdndmi vartamdnam vastu
aham eva atitam atitarancha ajndsisham aham eva
andgatam andgatatarancha jndsydmiti atitdndgata-
vartamdnd-bhdt-ena anyatha bhavati api jndtabye na
jndturanyathd-bhavosti tarvadd-vartamdna-bhdvat-
vat" " Let us take an example. It is I who know
what is present. It is I who knew what is past and
what is more remotely past. It is I who shall know
the future and what is more remotely future. In
these cases, though the object of knowledge differs
according as it is present, past or future, the know-
ing subject does not change, for it is always


9 We shall see, as we proceed, that these familiar

facts, whose deep significance is concealed by their
extreme familiarity, are the revelations of an eternal
and infinite Consciousness lying at the root of our
lives and at the root of the whole cosmos. May the
Supreme Spirit be our guide in our search after him !


Revelation of God in Man and

Nature :
The Metaphysics of Theism


Revelation of God in Man and Nature:
The Metaphysics of Theism

I hope you remember the conclusion of our
third lecture. By a pregnant quotation from San-
kara, I tried to show there, that dtmapratyaya or the
intuition of self is fundamental, self-evident and
universal. I also promised there to show by and by,
that dtmai'iratyai/a is, in its pure and ultimate essence,
identical with Brahmapratyaya or the intuition of
God. Now, this is a subject to which you cannot
pay too much attention ; and it will be seen that the
-factoriness or the reverse of the work that lies
before us, will depend greatly upon the firm or loose
hold you may have of the subject in hand. Let us,
therefore, endeavour to understand clearly the cha-
racteristics of the intuition of self just enumerated,
it< nrimariness, necessity and universality. By the
primary or fundamental character of self-conscious-
ness, it K meant that it is the basis of all other kinds
of knowledge and therefore not dependent on any of
them. As Sankara says : " The self, being the condi-
tion of the eiujTloyment of proofs, is self-evident even
before the employment of proofs." As it is the self
that perceives and reasons makes perception and
reason possible, its existence is logically prior to
perception and reasoning, and it does not wait or


need to be established by these proofs. The necessary
or self-evident character of self-consciousness is also
clear, and it cannot be expressed more clearly than
in Sankara's words: " It is not possible to deny such
a reality, for it is the very essence of him who would
deny it." Descartes, the father of modern European
Philosophy, found himself capable, at the beginning
of the course of philosophical reconstruction started
by him, of doubting everything, God and the whole
world, but incapable of doubting his own self ; for
even the act of doubting it implied its existence.
Doubt itself implies the doubter ; and so Descartes
expressed the fundamental and self-evident character
of self-consciousness in the well-known proposition,
' Cogito, ergo sum' 'I think, therefore I exist'
which, though put in the form of an argument, is
not really so, but the expression of a self-evident,
fundamental truth. Its self-evidence and primari-
ness, you will see, are not really different characteris-
tics, but the same characteristic expressed in two
ways. Nor is its universality really a different charac-
teristic ; for it simply means that the intuition of self
lies at the basis of all forms of thought and know-
ledge and is therefore common to all rational beings.
I would particularly draw your attention to this
characteristic of self-consciousness. The fact asserted
is that, whether we see or hear, smell/ taste or touch,
remember, imagine or reason, we know our own self
as the subject of these acts. In other words, all
objects of knowledge and thought appear related to
us as known or thought of. You will see that the


proposition I am stating is really an identical proposi-
tion, repeating in the predicate what is already
implied in the subject, and therefore cannot but be
a true proposition. But the fact is that to unreflec-
tive people, it does not seem to be so plain and its
truth seems far from being apparent. It seems that
in much of our knowing and thinking we forget
ourselves and that it is only in reflective moods that
we are aware of ourselves as knowers and thinkers.
But this is really based on a misconception. It is,
indeed, true that in unrefiective moods, the proposi-
tion, 'I know ' or 'I think,' is not distinctly before
our minds, but that the fact of our being subjects is,
in a more or less indistinct form, present to our minds
in every act of knowing or thinking, is evident ; for
unless it were so, unless we knew ourselves related
objects to every object known by us, we could
not, after the act of knowing, bring ourselves into
relation to it in our reflective moods. We can
remember only that which we know, we can recog-
nise only what we cognise ; and so, if, for instance,
you had really forgotten yourselves when you heard
my third lecture, you could not now remember, as
you actually do, that you did hear it. The very fact
that you now remember yourselves as the hearers of
th. lecture, shows that you knew yourselves then as
its hearers. X.11 knowledge, therefore, contains,
either explicitly or implicitly, self-knowledge, the
knowledge of the self as the subject or knower.
This self-knowledge may be associated with various
wrong notions about the nature of the self ; but that


does not make the fundamental knowledge of self as
the knowing principle any the less real. In ignorant
minds the real nature of the self may lie concealed,
as it were, under various objects wrongly identified
with it, as the real nature of a sword is hidden by the
sheath that encloses it. But that does not invalidate
the original dtmapratyaya that accompanies all
these mistaken identifications. Vedantic philoso-
phers, including the composers of the Upanishads,
have taken the trouble of enumerating the various
gross or subtle objects with which we, at successive
stages of our spiritual progress, identify the self, and
have also taught us the way to finding out the error
of such ignorant identifications. At the lowest stage
of spiritual progress, they say, we naturally identify
the self with the gross body, the organism which is
built up with the materials eaten by us. This they
call annamaya kosha, the nutrimental or material
sheath. At the next higher stage we identify the
self with the vital principle, the principle that lies at
the root of our respiration, digestion, locomotion
and such other phenomena. This they call prdna-
maya Kosha, the vital sheath. At the third higher
stage we consider our passing sensations and ideas,
or a conceived substratum of these, as our self. This
sensory or substratum of sensations they call mano-
maya kosha, the sensuous or mental slieath. At the
next or fourth stage, we consciously bring all sensa-
tions under general ideas and conceive of an organ,
which we call buddhi or the understanding, as the
seat of these ideas. This buddhi or vijndna is called


by our philosophers vijndnamaya kosha, the intellec-
tual sheath. Our pleasurable emotions, specially the
emotions arising from communion with God, are
conceived to be the fifth involucrum of the self and
is called dnandamaya koaha, the beatific sheath. In
each higher stage of spiritual life represented by these
sheaths, \\ e identify the self with a subtler and subtler
object and ascribe to it a higher and higher function.
Each higher sheath, therefore, is a truer represent-
ation of the self than the lower. But as each of
them is an object characterised by being known, and
is not self-knowing, none represents the true self,
which is a self-knowing subject and not the object of
knowledge to any one else than itself. Thus we
see that, though we may be far from true self-know-
ledge, knowledge of the real nature of the self,
though we may identify ourself with objects more or

misrepresenting it and so far hiding its true
character, yet we never lose sight of it altogether,
but*refer every piece of knowledge, of whatever kind
it may be, to a knowing principle constituting our


Now, let us proceed and try to see what is involved
in this primary fact of the self knowing itself in know-
ing and thinking of every object, or in other words,
of every object of knowledge and thought appearing
as related to the self as known or thought of by it.
It seems to us, on a superficial view, that things
come into relation with the self in our acts of know-
ing and then pass out of this relation and continue


as realities independent of knowledge, when they are
no more before our senses. But, on a closer view, it
will be seen that even when they are absent from our
body and our senses, we continue to think of them as
still related to ourself as still the objects of its know-
ledge. Whether we are right in thinking so or not,
is not the question now ; the question is whether we
necessarily think so or not whether this mode of
thinking is or is not a fundamental law of thought.
You will see that it is really so. You may imagine as
many changes in the objects known by you as you
please, when they are absent from your senses ; but you
will see that you must think of all these changes as
known changes, and that the original object, how-
ever changed in character, must be thought of as
unchanged in one essential character its being an
object of knowledge to the self the same self that
you call your own. At the end of this lecture you
may, as you really will, imagine this mandir as
unoccupied by any human being, as a darkened hall
with the lights put out and as dead-still, with no
sound vibrating through it, and so on. You may
even represent it as shaken or reduced to fragments by
a sudden earthquake or burnt to ashes by an unex-
pected conflagration. But, in whatever form you
think of it as existing, you must, by an inexorable
necessity, think of that form as related as a known
object to yourself. It may seem, at first thought,
that we are required to think of some self or other,
as knowing the object ; but you will see, if you
dive deep into the matter, that whatever other


characteristics you may be required to ascribe to
the subject in relation to which the object in question
must be thought of, you cannot dissociate it from
yourself. With the other characteristics you may
ascribe to it, you must nevertheless think of it as
your inmost self as that which makes it possible for
you to know the object when it is presented to your
senses. We see, then, that, however unreasonable
it may sound, we are compelled, by a fundamental
law of thought, to universalise our self, the self
that each of us calls his own. We not only see that
our self is present as the witness of every object and
every event that is presented to us, but we are forced,
by an inexorable necessity of thought, to think of this
self as the witness of every object, however remote it
may be from our senses, and of every event, even
those which are far removed in time, both past and
future, from our brief span of life. We see that we
can^ with more or less ease, discount the five sheaths
enumerated above in thinking of the facts of the
world . We can think of things as not near our bodies,
can think of our organisms as not formed at all
when yet the world was full of an infinite variety
of things. We can think of us as not breathing,
digesting or performing other vital functions. We
can think of ourselves as not experiencing any sensa-
tions, i.e., not as existing at all as sentient beings. We
i not even think of ourselves as distinct intelli-
gences, taking up the facts of the universe piecemeal
and trying to understand them. We may discount
the thought of such intelligences experiencing


the joys arising out of knowledge and devotional
exercises. But what we cannot discount is the self
implied in all these things and thoughts. We
are forced to represent it as the one unchangeable
witness of the universe and of our commerce with it
as individual and changeful intelligences. All that
makes us finite beings, as limited in time, space and
power, we do not universalise. We do not univer-
salise our bodies, our senses, our thoughts and
emotions, not even our ideas as passing events.
But each of us thinks that his inmost self is
something universal, existing everywhere and at
all times. As each of us thinks his own self to be
universal, it will be seen that we really think one
undivided universal Self as existing at the root of all
our separate individualities. In so far as we habitual-
ly identify our individuality with our self, in so far
as the term 'self\is appropriated to the mind or
understanding distinct in each of us, the proposition
that there is a universal and permanent Witness
of the world, and that it exists in each of us as our
inmost self, seems to be a most absurd one. Whether
it is really so absurd as it seems, or there is really, in
each of us, something transcending time and space
and constituting the basis of our conscious life, we
must see by and by. What I have t already said is
not, I am aware, sufficient to convince the intellect
and make all doubts and misgivings impossible.
But what I claim to have already shewn is that,
however absurd the above proposition may seem to
us. it is really a necessity of thought. If you really


understand it, you will see that it governs all our
thoughts about the world. We cannot represent the
world to our mind otherwise than as the permanent
object, in all its changes, of the very self that we call
our own. It is only in so far as we live without
reflection that we seem to think otherwise^ Deep
reflection, a close analysis of our ideas, cannot, but
detect this necessity of thought This necessity
can be logically proved, if it is not already clear, by
showing that the current belief that the world exists
without any necessary relation to the self, actually
involves a contradiction. Things appear to us as
known as related to our knowing self. We do not
know them in any other character than as known.
Th own things to us, and we can think of

them o: o know them, i.e., we can think of

thorn only as knotcn tilings. Even he who says that
ves things as existing unknown unrelated to

-mowing self really represents them to his mind
>t tilings. It is impossible for him to repre-
sent them in any other character than that in which

. have appeared to him. To say, therefore, that
things can exist without relation to the self, is to say
that known things can exist unknown, which i
palpable a contradiction as any can be. That people
thus habitually contradict themselves without knowing
that they do so, shows how little they care to analyse

r thoughts and learn their true nature and con-
i-eally impossible, as I have ft] aid,

:iink of things otherwise than as known and

n to our own self. By the same necessity


which compels us to think of things as known even
when they are absent from our senses, we are also
forced to universalise the self in us and think of it
as present to all things. Whether we are right in
thinking so or not, we may now proceed to see by
closely analysing our knowledge and trying to find
out if there is or is not anything in it that transcends
the limitations of space and time.

The common belief the belief not only of
unreflective people, but of many who call themselves
philosophers, is that, in knowing the world, we know
ourselves as so many finite subjects, as selves not only
distinct from, but essentially unrelated to, the
world we know. But the fact is that it is only from
the standpoint of an Infinite Self, only as sharing in
the life of such a Self, that we can be and do actually
become the subjects of knowledge. In every act of
knowing we, indeed, distinguish ourselves from the
objects known. In knowing the book before me I
know that it is distinct not only from my body, but
from my very self. The book is not I, nor am I
the book. The book seems to limit my existence
and I seem to limit its. I seem to be wholly excluded
from the book and it seems to be wholly excluded
from me. But the fact is that while this distinction

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Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 7 of 23)