It was a bad day for philosophy when Boswell's Johnson kicked a stone and thereby thought that he had refuted Berkeley. This was felt reality and similar clever ways of being stupid are still current. Stephen Hawking kicked the same stone in `A Brief History of Time'.

For metaphysics, both East and West, the Real or what is to be regarded as `really real' is a question which has caused philosophers of the common sense school as well as their lay followers to snort and stretch forth their right hands asseverating `This is a hand, it is my right hand' believing that this refutes the belief `that it's all in your mind '. Actually in fact what they have merely done is to give an internal answer to an external question. In other words even metaphysicians do not doubt the internal coherence of the world and the distinctions that exist between self and other or my mind and other minds in normal discourse. However it is the underpinning of the whole, how things must fundamentally be for things to be as they are that is in question for metaphysics

The C.O.D. captures this distinction succinctly. Real: 3. (philos.) Having an absolute & necessary & not merely contingent existence. Thus I may see this book before me, touch it &c but deny that it is necessary. It might not have been written, the author might not have been born, any one of an infinite number of circumstances could have negated this present reality which I do not doubt. Then we may go on to consider whether at bottom there is a radical contingency in all things. Like mothers, philosophers, they worry. An endless series of dependency seems too vertiginous to the philosophic mind so being that is necessary and existing now is proffered as a foundation that is really real. What is the status of these metaphysical intuitions? Consider the remarks of S.T.C. in Essay XI on the intuition of existence.

Though those particular concerns of contingency and necessity do not come up in Advaita and neither does the immaterialism of George Berkeley; my point is that without this sense of what for a metaphysician is the real or conversely ,in Advaita, illusion or Maya we can get ourselves snagged in the thickets of common sense and never get to ask `How does common sense get to be common (shared) sense' or very many other interesting questions. Let us then avoid the brute rhetoric of Samuel Johnson " in order to prevent , if possible, the hasty censures of a sort of men, who are too apt to condemn an opinion before they rightly comprehend it". (preface to a Treatise concerning the principles of Human Knowledge).

In Shankaracarya's time when he was drawing out the Advaitic essence of the Vedanta he would have felt no need to justify the metaphysical view of reality as the really real. Even Buddhism with which he disagreed and held to be incoherent in its central doctrines accepted this. Dhammapada #279 : `All is unreal' When one says this, he is above sorrow. This is the clear path." However the analogy of superimposition and the way it directed one's attention to an area of mystery in the relation between the Self and the intellect, mind and senses was one which he felt was necessary to make clear in a preamble to his commentary on the Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Badarayana, also known as the Vedanta Sutras (ca.500 200 B.C.). In his own original treatise on Non-Dualism, Upadesa Sahasri, unconstrained by a text he follows a different order first dealing with the counter intuitive statements of the Srutis. However I am going to deal with the Superimposition analogy first as it is an important, unusual and it must be stressed often misunderstood concept. I hope by limning it first to avoid a long `side bar' which would disrupt the natural flow and thrust of Shankara's own treatment. The analogy is a way of bringing out, and clarifying, knowledge that might have been attained by an intuition and then when you backtrack to fill in the missing steps you discover nature has left a clue to metaphysical structure in an everyday occurrence.

The everyday occurrence is confusing one thing with another. In the evening in poor light you may take the stump of a tree for a man and greet it or take fright at a coiled up piece of rope. The essence of it is that the attributes of one thing, snake or man are superimposed on the rope or stump. In each case there are two things at work, the unreal snake\man and the real rope\stump. Analogously the innermost Self which is changeless and the mind, body, and senses which are changeful mutually superimpose their attributes on each other. You identify the Self with the body etc. and vice versa. This apparently inextricable confusion is due to ignorance. Though this is an analogy because it points towards a condition which cannot be experienced in the normal subject\object mode yet for Shankara something very much like this happens. Superimposition is the spoor of reality. In the Br.Su.Bhasya and in Upadesa Sahasri the opponent to the Vedantin interposes the objection that in the case of the stump\rope and man\snake two well known things which exist out there in the world are superimposed upon each other, the Self on the other hand cannot be known. Shankara rejects this saying that it is not an absolute condition that both things must be well known for in fact it is commonplace to say `I am fair' or `I am black' are both properties of the body which are projected onto the Self.

It is taken for granted that the aspirant has a nascent sense of the eternal nature of the Self from his contact with the Srutis. Following this acquaintance with Scriptural wisdom comes close logical argument. Thus the saying `With the aid of the Srutis and valid reasoning the truth can be as plain as the fruit in your hand'. The mystical intuition of the Vedanta can be justified logically but if they hadn't been there first their apparently counter-intuitive conclusions would not have offered themselves to the intelligence. They also give orientation to and at certain points confirmation of a conclusion achieved by valid reasoning. The conclusions stated gnomically by the Upanisads would have been familiar to the aspirant from the chants of temple worship or his own private homage. It was Shankara's particular achievement to fill in the logical gaps.

Thus when he says that the superimposition of bodily properties on to the eternal self is a normal manifestation of ignorance the general purport of his argument is grasped even if at the same time full acceptance is balked by the cavils of the understanding.

To this counter to the rebuttal of superimposition in relation to the self he adds an intriguing, to the Western mind, example of how superimposition can occur onto something that is not directly perceivable by the sense. "Boys superimpose the ideas of surface (i.e. concavity) and dirt on space (i.e. sky) that is not an object of sense-perception." I'm not sure how much this adds to the notion of superimposition but it demonstrates that Vedic Cosmology had a concept of space as a created reality. It was not an absolute space that things fell through or stood about in pace Newton. It joined in the `lila'.

Avidya or ignorance is the term used in describing the natural state of humankind. The opponent asks, how any knowledge whatever is possible if the subject is foundered in ignorance? The reply offered is that there must be self identification with the body, mind and senses for everyday activity to go on. The means of knowledge require it. It is also true that the carrying out of scriptural duties can be done without a knowledge of absolute reality. It would be true to say that one who has achieved self-realisation is to some extent past the need for such actions for without self-identification such duties are not sensible, strictly speaking.

Thus there is no apparent difference between the wise and those still in the thrall of avidya. "Similarly even the wise are repelled by the presence of strong uproarious people with evil looks and upraised swords and are attracted by men of opposite nature".(page 5 Brahma Sutra Bhasya) The theory of superimposition has the possibility of an antinomian interpretation being laid on it as the esoteric doctrine of some bizarre cult. However if we work through the stages of the argument which makes this extraordinary theory intelligible then it may not seem such a bolus. To do this the `Upadesa Sahasri' is a clear guide in difficult terrain and the antinomian interpretation will become self evidently the vaporing of rascal swamis.

There are only three chapters in the prose section or `Upadesa Sahasri. Each of the first two chapters deals with a different type of aspirant and the teaching given to each is structured differently. The first chapter is called ` A Method of Enlightening the Disciple'. The aspirant in this case is a man who has taken to the path of renunciation as a sanyasin or wandering monk. For him there is a straightforward laying out of the bare bones of the Non-Dualist (Advaita) philosophy backed up by a multitude of quotations from the Upanisads. The second aspirant met with in Chapter 2 is a brahmacarin who may be supposed to be fresh and eager to unravel the subtle reasoning that perhaps only a few are interested in. The first is mostly given doctrinal arguments. The vertiginous spectacle of samsara, of countless transmigrations, has wearied him. "I have got tired of this going round and round in the wheel of transmigration, and have come to you Sir to put an end to this rotation."(pg.9 U.Sa.) He is reminded of the various definitions of the Self which have been delivered to him through the Srutis. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad furnishes copious quotations - "The Brahman that is immediate and direct / the innermost Self / the unseen seer, the unheard listener, the unthought thinker, the unknown knower." The teacher also recapitulates the progression of creation from the absolute or Supreme Self. Ether(space), air, fire, water and earth is the order of emanation. In short the approach of the Teacher in this chapter is the appeal to the scriptures in order to allay the doubts of the aspirant.

Philosophic doubt is finally raised by the declaration that the Supreme Self is "free from sin, old age, death, grief, hunger, thirst, etc., and devoid of smell and taste" (pg.20 U.Sa. from Chh. U. 8.vii.1) The disciple rejects this saying that it is obvious that I feel pain on account of a burn or a cut. The teacher though counters this with an argument which threads its way through the minefields of dualism and idealism.

At first he draws attention to the fact that we always locate the pain, we perceive the pain in the chest, stomach etc. The pain occurs but not in the perceiver which is held to be other than the pain. Shankara's dictum can be summarised 1:The pain is where it is felt 2:The pain is felt where it is. The Self cannot feel a pain because the Self is not a place and moreover if the pain was in the self for the pain to be known would imply that the Knower could know itself. "If it were in the Self the pain could not be perceived by the Self like the colour of the eye by the same eye."

An effect has a place - a sort of locus. If the effect cannot be in the Self then the impressions (registered in the memory) cannot be in the Self also. It is also true that Shankara would reject the idea that `I feel the pain' implies that there is a mental subject that feels a mental object. You could as well say `I am in pain' as an expression as an immediate awareness of that pain. The memory of pain that gives rise to aversion is located in the non-self because memory is operative during waking and dream only and not in dreamless sleep. However it is Shankara's contention which will be demonstrated below that the Self is acting in deep sleep. This puzzling position is at the heart of his non-dualistic approach to awareness.

The translator of Upadesa Sahasri uses the term `impressions' which gives a Lockean flavour to the text. The term can equally apply to the sensations themselves or to their memories which gives rise to aversion, desire etc. "Desire, aversion and fear have a seat common with that of the impressions of colours. As they have for their seat the intellect, the knower, the Self is always pure and devoid of fear." (pg. 23 Upadesa Sahasri) At that one may throw one's hands up at the sheer weight of counter-intuitive assertion. How are those impressions or sensations felt if the Self is detached from them. How are they mine if I don't feel them? The disciple like ourselves is inclined to throw his hands up at the sheer weight of this counter-intuitive assertion. Even the moderns such as Wittgenstein who are dubious about incorrigibility would hold that to say `There is pain' and not at the same time know that `I am in pain' is unintelligible. However it is also true that Shankara would reject the idea that `I feel pain' implies that there is a mental subject that feels a mental object. Rather one could say `I am in pain' is the expression of the immediate awareness of that state.

By this stage the disciple is thoroughly seized with doubt and paralysed by the apparent contradiction of pain that is felt it seems by no one. He has been allowed to get into a state of stuckness which is especially useful to build up the pressure like dammed water that will breach the dam of ignorance. The Srutis declare that the Teachers reasoning is correct though again they merely baldly state their conclusions without filling in the intervening arguments. It is a sorites with a swathe cut out of it. No less that 37 separate quotations from Vedanta are thrown at him. The ancient Rishis, those perfect exemplars of Satya(truth), Dharma, Santi (peace) and Prema (love), in one giant step have attained to this knowledge. Their intuitive position, the point that was reached at one bound must be attained by the slow carving of steps and hammering in of pitons into the smooth rock of the imponderable.

By analysis we have go ourselves into the position - the Self cannot be an experiencer or a knower. Can this be right? The teacher declares that it is our ordinary, unthinking view of things which has got us into this double bind. Ignorance is our normal state. " In reality there is only One, the Self who appears to be many to deluded vision, like the moon appearing to be more than one to eyes affected by amaurosis." Can we really fill in all the missing steps to this position?

It is worth noting that scientists often have to fill in, in the same manner, a sense of elegance and beauty having sped them to a theoretical destination without stopping at mundane stations in between. "Rigorous argument is usually the last step! Before that, one has to make many guesses and for these, aesthetic convictions are enormously important." Roger Penrose quoted in `The Mind of God' by Paul Davies page 177 Penguin '93.

It is strange how philosophers can still hold the plodding tradesman view of science. There's a fact, here's another, I feel a theory coming on.

S.T.C. smashes that lob. Quote.

September 21, 1830

......He told me that facts gave birth to, and were the absolute ground of principles; to which I said, that unless he had a principle of selection, he would not have taken notice of those facts upon which he had grounded his principle. You must have a lantern in your hand to give light, otherwise all the materials in the world are useless, for you could not arrange them. "But then," said Mr.--, "that principle of selection came from facts!" - "To be sure!" I replied; "but there must have been an antecedent light to see those antecedent facts. The relapse may be carried in imagination backwards for ever, - but go back as you may, you cannot come to a man without a previous aim or principle. He then asked me what I had to say to Bacon's induction: I told him I had a good deal to say, if need were; but that it was perhaps enough for the occasion to remark, that what he was evidently taking for the Baconian induction was mere deduction - a very different thing.

However to return to the becalmed disciple who now has come to the point where the injunctions of the Srutis do not tally with the statement that the Self is beginningless and one without a second. Why are they telling us anything if that is the case? The Teacher replies " It is the gradual removal of this ignorance that is the aim of the scriptures; but not the enunciation of the reality of the difference of the end, means and so on." In the homely illustration often given you use a thorn to pick another thorn out of your foot, then both are discarded. The ends and means of the Sruti are melded in the ultimate vision but right up to that point must be adhered to, a point not heeded by bounder Bhagwans.

Chapter II is given the sonorous title `The Knowledge of the Changeless and Non-Dual Self'. It starts #45,pg.31.

A certain Brahmacarin, tired of the transmigratory existence consisting of birth and death, and aspiring after liberation, approached in the prescribed manner a knower of Brahman established in I and sitting at ease and said, "How can I, Sir, be liberated from this transmigratory existence? Conscious of the body, the senses and their objects I feel pain in the state of waking and also in dream again and again after intervals of rest in deep sleep experienced by me. Is this my nature or is it causal, I being of a different nature? If it be my own nature I can have no hope of liberation as one's own nature cannot be got rid of. But if it be causal, liberation from it may be possible by removing the cause."

I've got those transmigration blues! For both aspirants Samsara is a tread mill that they want to get off. This contrasts with the Christian view of the weakness of the Hindu/Buddhist doctrine viz. that the chance to keep coming back takes the urgency out of moral and religious life.

The Teacher answers with the oriental variant of ` I've got some good news and some bad news. First the good news - it's causal'.

The disciple exults at this knowing that once the cause is removed its effect goes with it. But what is the cause and what is my true nature?

"The cause is Ignorance. Knowledge brings it to an end. When Ignorance, the cause is removed, you will be liberated from the transmigratory existence consisting of birth and death, and you will never again feel pain in the states of waking and dream."

Pain it must be stressed is felt as a sensation but there is no longer any identification with the feeler of the pain as the Self. The clarification of this puzzle must await the full exposition of the Advaitic philosophy.

The teacher relates:

"You are the non-transmigratory Supreme Self, but you wrongly think that you are one liable to transmigration. (Similarly), not being an agent or an experiencer you wrongly consider yourself to be so. Again, you are eternal but mistake yourself to be non-eternal. This is Ignorance."

At this exposition of paradox purporting to be good news the mind of the disciple reacts with a flurry of objections. He accepts that he is eternal, but denies that he is the Supreme Self. He declares himself to be the agent and experiencer of actions and perceptions. That is clearly so, how could that be ignorance? How could I be confused about this? Where could confusion come into this? Confusion to be possible must involve two things that I know well getting mixed, the latent memory of one being superimposed over the other. If by its very nature the Self cannot be known in the sense that the knower cannot be known by itself, the hand cannot grasp itself, then I cannot superimpose something on it or vice versa superimpose it on something else.

Mon Nov 22, 1999

On the contrary, the teacher retorts offering the same exceptions as those given in the preamble to the Brahma-Sutra Bhasya already noted, it is common usage to say `I am fair' or `I am black' bodily characteristics which are superimposed on the Self. Likewise the Self, the object of the consciousness `I', is superimposed on the body. This mutual superimposition is what distinguishes the metaphysical sort from the mundane ordinary confusion, of which more later.

Taking up this point the disciple retracts his earlier position but finds a new point of attack on the superimposition theory. ` If the Self is well known, as the object of the consciousness `I', and the body is also well-known as `this body'. Thus two well-known things are superimposed mutually on each other so there is no exception to the rule as you have made out there is' It is clear from the answer of the Teacher that the argument is moving into new territory similar to that which has bedevilled even modern philosophy in attempting to discuss the claim of consciousness to ontological reality. Yes he allows the Self and the body are well-known but they are not well-known in the sense that the rope and the snake are well-known as objects of separate knowledges `out there'. You can't showing something say `this is the body' and `this is the Self' showing some other thing. They are mixed up in each other and cannot be differentiated though they can be referred to.

The Disciple takes the other facet of the confusion analogy - how the thing that is superimposed on the base reality becomes non-existent when the mistake is discovered. That being the case mutual superimposition of the Self and the body implies that they both are absolutely non-existent. This is the Buddhist Nihilist (Sunyavada) position which is unacceptable. If the body alone is superimposed then it becomes non-existent in the existing Self which is contrary to sense-perception. His conclusion is that the body and the Self are not mutually superimposed but rather exist in conjunction with one another, this relationship making up what we call a human being. The analogy offered is that conjunction is like the different parts of a house, pillars and bamboos, that together function as a house. Self and body acting together make up what we call a man.

This is not an adequate explanation in the Teachers view. When the Self is supposed to be existing in a conjoined state with the body it acts for the sake of another i.e.. it acts as the Self of that body. Thus when that body dies as is evident the Self of that body will die also. Therefore the Self cannot be conjoined to the body if it is to be eternal.

A difficult passage follows this and as the argument is very compressed it will be necessary to tease it out like tangled wool. To follow the close argument of the text I will have to go by numbered paragraph, paraphrasing to draw out the meaning and trying by additional comment to elucidate where there are sudden shifts of attention.


That the self is in contact with the body is dismissed by the Teacher in #56. It is not articulated to it in the classical dualist way which means that it would then perish with the body. However if the Self is not in contact with the body then it might well be eternal. The use of 'not in contact with' is a lawyerly one and contains some cosmic fine print. It prepares us to accept the idea of neither one thing - a monism - nor two - a dualism - but non-dualism in which the 'connection' is anirvacanaya', inscrutable. Two theories are dismissed in this paragraph (a) in which Self is in contact with the body which is a form of dualism cf. Descartes (b) the subtle form of materialism which holds that the self is not any one of the elements that we can separate conceptually i.e. body, mind, intellect, senses, but all of these things working in concert. The analogy given is that of the house which is made up of all the different elements such as bamboo, pillars etc. A house as an individual entity must not be looked for as a separate item apart from all these. It's as if one were to say 'I see the pillars, the bamboo, the thatch, the doors, the windows but where is the house'. This reminds me of the category error that Ryle talked about in 'The Concept of Mind' - I see all the Colleges but where is the University of Oxford.

The Aristotelian concept of the soul as the form of the body connects in some ways to the linga sarira as though a lived world might be reborn or enjoy its context for ever.

Disciple: Being conjoined with the body a self is not superimposed on it. It is all those things that we can conceptually separate working in concert. The superimposition angle that is bothering the disciple is the normal one where the snake becomes non-existent when the reality of the rope is discerned. The body would then be without a Self which is the Nihilist (Anatman)position. At this point the teacher introduces the important analogy of the ether in which we are presented with the idea of something that is omnipresent but not in contact with anything. (ether = space).

#60: The disciple comes back to the core question: How is the unknowable (as a separate act of perception) self superimposed on the body. Clearly the perceptual model is still at work in the disciple's mind.

(By the superimposition of the Self is meant the superimposition of the quality of the Self viz. consciousness. Therefore the body is not recognised in the Self in a perceptual fashion.)

The teacher answers by stating that the self is well known to all but not known in a separate act of awareness. There is no rule that only those things which are known occasionally so to speak are superimposed or superimposable. As we see the form of a frying pan (wok type) and blueness superimposed on the sky there cannot be a rule etc.

The Self of its very nature is well-known. In fact it is always known. Something that is always known cannot present itself as a separate item of perceptual awareness by coming into purview. "There cannot be a rule that it is things known occasionally only on which superimposition is possible and not on things always known."


#57:Going back to the notion that what is superimposed is a non-entity or does not exist once ignorance is dismissed by knowledge. When the Self which is not conjoined to the body (the Teacher's position) and is actually superimposed upon it the result of this action is to render it non-existent and non-eternal. Thus we have a body without a Self which is the Nihilist (Sunyavada) position.

#58: The Teacher: Not so. An analogy is offered. Space, which has any number of things in it, is yet not in contact with any of them. You could have the Self superimposed on the body and the body superimposed upon it without the Self ceasing to be.

Moreover(#59) the body does not exist in the Self in a perceptual fashion in the way a plum might be in a hole, a picture painted on a wall or oil in sesame seeds.

It seems to me here that the questions of the Disciple are pushing the analogy to its limits to where it fails and it is leaving the perceptual basis of confusion behind to go towards a manner of conceptual interlinking. #60: The disciple comes back to the core question: How is the unknowable (as a separate act of perception) self superimposed on the body. Clearly the perceptual model is still at work in the disciple's mind.

#61: This is rejected emphatically. The Self of its very nature is well-known. In fact it is always known. Something that is always known cannot present itself as a separate item of perceptual awareness by coming into purview. "There cannot be a rule that it is things known occasionally only on which superimposition is possible and not on things always known."

#64: The Disciple is back on the theme of consciousness. Remember for him the combination of the body, mind, intellect and senses are not conscious. If he was only that then he would have no self knowledge and only come to be known by another and therefore no superimposition could be made by him. On the other hand the Self could carry out this superimposition which is the root of Ignorance. In other words the Self superimposes on itself the body etc.

On being told to give up doing it (Jagadananda's footnote: Know that you are pure consciousness and are never really identified with the body etc.) the Disciple claims that he cannot help doing so.

#67: This plea is dismissed because one who is made to act by another in the arena of consciousness is a non-conscious being. A self-existent beings consciousness cannot be got at in this fundamentally structural manner. If you are being got at to force you to superimpose you are a non-conscious combination of the body etc.

This reductio ad absurdum brings the obvious reply - If I'm non-conscious how do I feel pain and pleasure and understand what you say?

#69: "Are you different from the cognition of pain and pleasure and from what I say, or not?"

#70: The disciple takes the view that he is different. They are objects of knowledge much the same as jars and other things. They are different from me so I can cognise them. They do not exist of themselves but as known by me. I am different from those states of awareness as they are known in the successive manner as they occur up by the intellect whereas if they were one with me then I could not know them in that manner.

#71: You are a conscious being and are not in the manner of your consciousness made to act by anyone else. Another consciousness acting along with yours is otiose. I see this, I don't need another seer to see my seeing. By the same token it is impossible that my consciousness could exist for the sake of another having no consciousness because that consciousness could never be known to exist, it having no self-existence as a conscious thing would have. To cover all the combinations Shankara offers to dismiss the possibility of two non-conscious things acting for each others purpose.

Looking for an analogy that will give pause to the Teacher's logic (#72) the Disciple offers the weak -" the master and the servant are seen to serve each others purpose though they are both equally possessed of consciousness."

The reply (#73) is that has no bearing on the point he is making viz. that consciousness is an integral part of you and not articulated in any way. Like the heat and light of fire they cannot be separated from one another. Consciousness is a permanent aspect of your intellect. You know everything presented to your consciousness immediately. This part of your consciousness is changeless and eternal. Here within the domain of `valid reasoning' the Vedic intuition of the nature of consciousness is stated for the first time. But it still has to be argued for.

The Disciple queries the changeless aspect of consciousness (#74) and he approaches it by an analysis of perception which in Western philosophy would be called realist. What one is aware of is an object external to one and not simply mental modifications. It is hard to make out whether the argument proffered by the Disciple would represent Shankara's own view. Looking at the contra Vijnanavadin (Buddhist Idealism)in Brahma-Sutra Bhasya he notes

"If it be asked, Were there no external world how could there be a diversity in knowledge". This is more or less the point the disciple is making but Shankara details how the determined Idealist would wriggle out of it though it is plain he views it all as terminally woolly. His own refutation of that doctrine takes a different tack and contains an interesting point which could be applied to Berkeley's Lockean material substance. But this would take us too far away from the matter in hand which seems to have been the attitude of the Teacher who does not engage with the disciple on the correctness or otherwise of the attack on Idealism. The final statement in #74 ".....It (the Self) is the knower of the mental modifications appearing to be blue, yellow and so on. It must therefore be of a changeful nature. Hence is the doubt about the changeless nature of the Self".

There is far too much to quarrel with in this but the Teacher #75 limits himself to the doubt: The teacher said to him, "your doubt is not justifiable, for you, the Self, are proved to be free from change, and therefore perpetually the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind are (simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless."

At this point I'm going to commit a bull `You can't know anything until you know everything'. The bracketed `simultaneously' which is not found in the text points up the difference between perception and knowledge which becomes clearer as the whole non-dualist philosophy is laid bare and the its articulation becomes clearer. Whatever is in your mind is known by you without you having to cast your mental eye over it. You do not have to scan it to know it. You do not peruse your mental image as you would a picture on the wall. There is no interior analogue of the physical act of perception. You do not see your seeing of a pillar, you see a pillar. "Not that anybody cognises a perception to be a pillar, a wall etc., rather all people cognise a pillar, a wall, etc., as objects of perception. And it is for this reason that people understand those others (viz. the Buddhists) as really assuming the existence of an external thing even while they deny it by saying, "That by which is the content of an internal awareness appears as though external". For they use the phrase `as though' in the clause `as though external' just because they too become aware of a cognition appearing externally in the same way as is well known to all people, and yet they want to deny any external object." (from Brahma-Sutra Bhasya page 419)

The linking of the Self to the changing panorama of mental life by the Disciple in (#74) in which he queries its changeless aspect is paralleled by David Hume .

"If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through' the whole course of out lives; since self is suppos'd to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is deriv'd; and consequently there is no such idea." 251\252 Treatise.

Later however he nominates memory as the major contributor to our sense of identity - "In this particular, then, the memory not only discovers the identity, but also contributes to its production, by producing the relation of resemblance among the perceptions. The case is the same whether we consider ourselves or others." This argument is clearly circular and incoherent. Experts hold that Hume himself was not happy with this aspect of his philosophy. The power of the notion of objectivity i.e.. the discovery of the self, on whatever grounds it is to based upon , those grounds must be the same in my own case as in yours; is an idea is so strong that it still has currency. As originally delivered by Hume it has that note of brisk common sense delivered with barely modulated clarity which does not arrest our thought and thus we proceed in his excellent company through the wrong door and get lost. Sense impressions are `out there', public and comparable; hence suitable evidence. Some modern materialists go so far as to also hold that if we are to be objective we must use the same criterion of identity for ourselves as for others. Thus consciousness is dismissed because it is too subjective.

However in contrast to Hume and the Disciple who focus on the contents of consciousness and get immersed in that flux, Advaita considers the modal changes of consciousness that occur in the three stages of waking, dreaming and deep dreamless sleep. It offers analogies to help focus our minds on the nature of mind itself. `Consciousness is like the water, the waves are mental modifications'. What is important to take from #76 is that if consciousness worked like a sort of inner vision it would be scanning its objects in a successive way -"Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time)."

This non-scanning simultaneous aspect of consciousness becomes evident when we consider the products of imagination and dream. I cannot count the pillars of the Parthenon that I imagine or see in my dreams.

In your consciousness it is always now. Your knowledge is now. Your memory is now. Everything is now. This is the aspect of simultaneity and it is a simple thing to get on an intellectual basis but when we get it in the heart, when deep thinking is allied with deep feeling this is where poetry lives. Burnt Norton V. T.S.Eliot.

Words move, music moves

Only in time; but which is only living

Can only die. Words, after speech, reach

Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,

Can words of music reach

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

Moves perpetually in its stillness.

Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,

Not that only, but the co-existence,

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

And the end and the beginning were always there

Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now.

Is this sense of the eternal now aspect of consciousness a primary metaphysical intuition, a poetic condition brought about by reverie or meditation? I would say yes but it is not an especially privileged one. You won't find it in the wrong place even if that place is well lit. Never mind the width feel the quality. Philosophy does not have neat edges nor yet is it a tidy Enlightenment garden with nature brought to order, the water fall inverted to a fountains cascade. Meditation can help to reveal the natural contours of the mind and so can art, poetry, jogging and motor-cycle maintenance.

: #76 From the now of immediate consciousness which by the way is not a special vedic intuition but merely ordinary attention, the Disciple attempts to jar us into the dynamic mode which makes knowledge from being a static reflection in a mirror like fashion to the dynamic sorting, seeking, finding activity which is expressed by the root of the noun `knowledge' in the verb `to know'. That is surely an indication of its being immersed in the active changing world and not the eternal only

#77: The Teacher admits that it is true that the intellect acts in grasping something and in that sense there is agency but that use of the word `knowledge' is derived from the primary one. In its primary use knowledge refers to that continuous, beginningless, consciousness that does not wax nor wane, that immediate awareness that saturates all our actions with the sense of its being my action. It does not begin, its always there. What does not begin is not an action. Here is the bare spoor of the atemporal.

The consciousness of an individual mental modification is a reflection of the beginningless consciousness which does not act. Swami Jagadananda's note refers us to the metrical section #54 page 221 in which it is stated: "The intellect has no consciousness and the Self no action. The word knows can therefore, reasonably be applied to neither of them."

#78: However there is a change in knowledge, does not this imply a change in the Self?

#79: This would be the case the teacher admits only if there were in fact a difference between the Knower and Knowledge. Like the disciple we may well be puzzled for the dichotomy of mental life into mental subject and mental objects is a natural error. We are presented with apparent contradiction.

(a) Knowledge as a mental modification is a change.

(b) "The Knower and Knowledge are not distinct as they are in the argumentative philosophy".

(c) Yet the Knower as the Self is changeless and eternal

#80 "How is it then that an action ends in a result which is knowledge?"

#81: A mental modification is an action, and as such cannot be Knowledge but a reflection of it, as though framed within it. There is no change in the Self as a result, it is there before the perception etc. and continues to be after it.

#82: The disciple is so puzzled that he puts his question another way to make sure that he is actually being given what seems to him to be a senseless contradiction. How then am I, who am changeless the knower, as you say, of all the mental modifications of endless objects of my knowledge?"

#83: The key lies in the simultaneous beginningless nature of consciousness of any kind. It doesn't start so ending is not a possibility. The successive acts of attention presented under the rubric of knowledge are known in a simultaneous fashion as they occur. Self cannot be separated out from this knowing.

#84: Where am I going wrong? I seem to have to hold at the one time two positions which are incompatible.

(a) There is consciousness which is eternal - the Self

(b) There is no distinction between the Knower and Knowledge.

(c) There are mental modifications which are the result of action of the intellect and which change endlessly.

#85: "It is true that you are not to be blamed. Ignorance, as I told you before, is the only fault."

The word ignorance is used again - `avidya'. Thus we are being primed for an exposition of superimposition. We are brought to the point where this is the only way out of the bind that we are in.

#86 The disciple returns to what David Hume would have called `the succession of impressions' whose flash and energy are so beguiling. "Sir, why are there the states of dream and waking (in me) if I am absolutely changeless like one in deep sleep?"

#87: But you always experience them ( whenever they arise.)."

#88: I experience them as they come up but not continuously.

#89: OK if you do then these mental modifications are not your Self which never comes or goes but is always there. In this he is referring to a particular impression of the Self which of course is not there just as Hume said.(cf. page 20) Waking and dream cease to be but consciousness does not do so. Pure consciousness is even there in Deep Sleep whereas everything else is negated or destroyed. All of these mental modifications that occur during conscious waking life and conscious dream life cease to be during Deep Sleep. But even during Deep Dreamless Sleep there is Self Consciousness.

#90: Pure consciousness then does not persist and is adventitious because during Deep Sleep I am not conscious of anything. Or perhaps the nature of consciousness is to come and go and my nature is not actually pure consciousness.

"For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception. When my perceptions are remov'd for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself and may truly be said not to exist". (from a Treatise of Human Nature Of Personal Identity)

This direct conflict is the critical test of the Advaitic theory of the Self, which I shall have to deal with in a separate chapter as it amazingly has been given no attention whatever (other than by Thomas Reid in an aside) by Western Philosophy. It is that fact which Coleridge would have called a protophaenomenon of which more later.

The adventitious nature of mental modifications which come to be out of the combination of subject and object is stressed by the Teacher in his reply (#91). Consciousness as such which is saturated by self never comes to be and always is.

"As Pure Consciousness, the Self is self-existent; no one can disprove Its independence of other things inasmuch as It never ceases to exist."

#92: Disciple: -"But I have shown an exception, namely, I have no consciousness in deep sleep."

#93. Teacher.-" No, you contradict yourself."

Disciple - "How is it a contradiction?"

Teacher.-" You contradict yourself by saying that you are not conscious when , as a matter of fact, you are so."

Disciple. - "But Sir, I was never conscious of consciousness or of anything else in deep sleep."

Teacher. - "You are then conscious in deep sleep. For you deny the existence of the objects of knowledge (in that state) but not that of Knowledge. I have told you that what is your consciousness is nothing but absolute Knowledge. The Consciousness owing to whose presence you deny (the existence of things in deep sleep) by saying, `I was conscious of nothing is the Knowledge, the Consciousness which is your Self. As it never ceases to exist, Its eternal immutability is self-evident and does not depend on any evidence; for an object of Knowledge different from the self-evident Knower depends on an evidence in order to be known. Other than the object the eternal Knowledge that is indispensable in proving non-conscious things different from Itself, is immutable; for It is always of a self-evident nature. Just as iron, water, etc., which are not of the nature of light and heat, depend for them on the sun, fire and other things other than themselves, but the sun and fire, themselves always of the nature of light and heat, do not depend for them on anything else; so being of the nature of pure Knowledge, It does not depend on any evidence to prove that It exists or that It is the Knower."

I have taken the chance to quote in full from the text as the strangeness of the observation, to Western eyes, warrants it. As to why that should be so the ramifications are so interesting that they a separate chapter is required. For now I will simply take it as an element within Shankara's argument about consciousness and not hover over it too much.

The disciple pops back no doubt after a mandatory count of seven with the relatively weak counter. #94: Only transitory knowledge is the result of proofs and not eternal unchanging knowledge. The implication is that such knowledge is so `always there', self-evident that no proof would be required.

#95: That distinction is a arbitrary one in the view of the teacher . The proof concerns the nature of consciousness as evinced through the awareness that we have been in a state of deep sleep (skr. sushupti). This is something that is extracted by no particular data (by definition it cannot be extracted from any data, there being none). This knowledge that there was no data i.e. that we were in a state of deep sleep is the significant knowledge. The dog that didn't bark as it were.

#96. The Disciple insists on his point that there is a major difference between eternal and transitory knowledge. The one is immediate and non-inferential and the other has to be attained - "it is produced by an intervening effort".

#97. The Knower as you say does not depend on any evidence.

#98. Could it not also be that the absence of a proof for the existence of the Self not also indicate it's non-existence.

#99 The Teacher launches into an extended discussion of why the Knower cannot be known. An evidence would be required for this knowledge. Evidence is required for all objective knowledge. The desire to know something has and must have as its object the thing to be known and not the knower himself. That interval or distance must always be there so a regressus is inevitable. The Knower is not distanced from himself by a wish or a desire or a memory etc. so thus it cannot be a thing to be known. It is just this that causes the Empiricist school within Western philosophy to deny that there is such a thing as the Self at all. " In this particular then the memory not only discovers the identity, but also contributes to its production, by producing the relation of resemblance among the perceptions." (page 261 A Treatise of Human Nature)

Contrast this with the succinct sense of "For memory has for its object the thing to be remembered and not one who remembers it; so has desire for its object the thing to be desired and not one who desires it. There arises, as before, an inevitable regressus ad infinitum if memory and desire have their own agents for their objects."

#100 Disciple. Does not the knower then remain unknown if the knower is never an object of knowledge?

# 101 Teacher. Knowledge as consciousness itself always is. Self awareness is of its nature as has been shown through the knowledge that we have been in a state of Deep Sleep. This is why Sushupti is of vital importance in revealing its nature. The analogy given is that self awareness is of consciousness in the same way that heat and light belong to the sun and fire. The immediacy of this self-awareness is not something that comes and goes. If that were the case it would have to be produced (the self-awareness) and what would bring it and to whom would it come? Would a memory bring it? Whose would the memory be? The very definition of the Self makes this sort of bringing and gathering of itself to itself a logical impossibility. This sort of bringing and gathering is to do with everything but the Self. So the Self is not dependent on anything else to be known

# 102 D. Does it rule, the Self, out as the seat of knowledge produced by evidences - because it is eternal and independent? The idea is that coming to be known is a change.

# 103 T. Knowledge is knowledge whether it be eternal or transitory. The nature of transitory and eternal knowledge is exactly the same.

# 104 D. The Self as you say is of the nature of changeless and eternal knowledge. If it is not in contact with the body and the senses plus it is reasonable for it to be regarded as an agent. The Self cannot use the body and the senses as instruments for that would lead to a regressus.

# 105 T. In his reply the Teacher clarifies and expands the position which the Disciple has just laid out. He deals with the difficulties that we will find ourselves in if we think of the Self as an agent in the Cartesian manner. It has something of the same flavour of the puzzle of Wittgenstein's in P.I. What's the difference between raising my arm and willing my arm to raise. (Check and quote) The essence of the teacher's position is that if agency is required for any action then there will be always be a regressus - being an agent of an action is itself an action which itself requires an agent and so on. I will to raise my arm, I will to will to raise my arm and on and on to the crack of doom.

A new twist to the `will' puzzle is added by the remark "Nor can it be said that it is an action that makes the Self act." That action not being performed would mean that the Self never came into existence which cannot be as the Self always is.

Neither can it be said that the body, the senses and their objects are self-existent as they come into existence i.e.. come to be known via mental modifications such as sense perceptions.

# 106 No evidence is required for knowing the body. Here the Disciple is assimilating it to the self.

# 107. T. The body and the senses come to be known by being activated by perceptions of the world external to them. But that is not to say that there is a knower at one remove from them. Knowledge which is produced by evidences, that consciousness is your very true and changeless Self.

# 108 Here is a major, apparently contradictory, assertion. How can both consciousnesses be the same, the one being changeful and transitory and the other changeless and eternal? The one is a result of evidences and the other is or must be other than that being self-evident.

Here the notion of a result of proofs in a secondary sense and a result of proofs in a primary sense is first explored and distinguished. The Self is noticed in the presence of mental modifications as through them it becomes manifest as an unchanging centre. The immediate unanalysed sense of Self comes to be in that rush of mental modifications and from that on analysis the Self changeless and eternal is educed.

January 10, 2000 It is made evident by the ordinary flux of awareness but there is an unanalysable residue of mystery which makes us ask the question _ Who am I? or How does a series of conscious states become conscious of itself as a series?

The transitory is all we have to go on when we have to make a start however by the application of sound reasoning we can see that the Self cannot be an agent or the result of proofs in the primary sense. As we gaze and gaze in our meditation (dhyana) certain interesting facts stand out and ask to be noticed. The knowledge that we have been in a state of deep sleep is the prime one (see below).

# 109 D. The Disciple takes all this on board and recapitulates. However as mentioned before it may be necessary to be careful of what he says as it may represent a partial grasp of the Advaitic awareness. The Self he says is conscious and all things other than the Self are non-conscious. They come to be known as existing through a Self being conscious of them. Thus they are not self-evident like the Self. Pure consciousness is irradiating the mental modifications, taking those shapes as it were. They are also saturated with self-consciousness. That Self is non-different from those states of awareness. Remember it cannot be an agent or an experiencer in the normal sense. Perhaps this is what leads certain modern philosophers to hold that there is no such thing as consciousness which they construe as essentially a Cartesian dualistic entity. It could be construed as mental subject\mental object dualism when the Disciple says "It is only as the Knowledge of the mental modifications giving rise to pleasure, pain and delusion that the non-self serves the purpose of another( viz. the self). And it is as the same Knowledge and nothing else that it has an existence. So it does not really exist at all." (pg.64)

By saying that which presents itself to us via mental modifications which in ordinary language would be called `my world' exists only as the knowledge by which it is known the D. is not submitting to dualism or radical idealism. He would be summarising the illusionistic end of Advaitic Vedanta commonly known as Maya. His statement is a large one and does not have all the qualifications that Shankara would have used. It is noteworthy that Shankara hardly uses the term Maya at all but restricts himself to the more modest term `avidya' or ignorance which claims no more than that superimposition is the root cause of ontological error. Perhaps Maya is too slippery or poetic a concept. It is useful as a judgement on the world to engender the cultivation of ascetic detachment.

Shankara's master Govindapada was taught by Gaudapada who in his Mandukya Karika adopted this strong version of Maya. He seems to have been influenced by Buddhism and the Sunyavada doctrine. The world for him was `ajatih' unborn thus giving the name `ajatihvada' to that branch of Advaitic Vedanta.

#48.(page 323 Mandukya Karika III.48)

No individual being, whichsoever, takes birth. It has no source (of birth). This(Brahman) is that highest Truth where nothing whatsoever takes birth.

The energy with which Shankara attacks Buddhist Idealism reflects perhaps his knowledge of how beguiling their teaching can be. He himself would probably be happy to leave us with a way out being indicated from the paradoxes

(a) Self is not an experiencer

(b) Self is not an agent

(c) Self is not transitory - We are victims of beginningless avidya.