The first Chapter is a classic text for the young aspirant who has forsaken family life and skipped straight from Bramacarya to Sanyas.  He is well acquainted with the scriptures and full of faith in them.  But he needs a living master to connect, expound and be the living exemplar of these texts.  Here the emphasis is on tradition and transmission  and not the detailed explication of a complex argument.

     On page 5 the marks of a good teacher are given.  Some revealing characteristics are mentioned which perhaps unconsciously reveal the milieu in which Sankara lived and taught.  To put in the first place ‘one who is endowed with the power of furnishing arguments pro and con, of understanding questions and remembering them’ seem to indicate one who is apt for polemic. 

     The text that is to be the first one taught is from Chandogya Upanisad: O good looking one, in the beginning this was Existence alone, One only, without a second.  (VI.ii.1)  Of the 6 texts mentioned 5 of them are from this Upanisad and they deal with the absolute unity of being.

     Interestingly this text has built into it the reflection of what must have been an early ontological debate. 

     ‘O good looking one, in the beginning this was Existence alone, One only, without a second.  With regard to that some say, “In the beginning this was non-existence alone, one only, without a second.  From that non-existence issued existence”.’

     Being (Sat) rather than Consciousness (Cit) is what is being given precedence.  This corresponds to the order of SatChitAnanda and is indicative of the non-accidental axiomatic order of the Mahavakyas (Great Sayings)

It is also interesting that he links this existence only in the beginning with the experience of having woken up from deep sleep and realizing that one was plunged in pure existence only.  “realizes that in deep-sleep the thing that existed was mere existence, i.e. he realizes existence alone, similar was the case before creation”. (pg.414 Ch.Up.)

Because this is such an important text and because it contains within it an alternative, ‘with regard to this some say’ Sankara takes great pains with the differentiation of the two views.  Others such as the Vaisesikas do not accept that a product before its creation was existence alone.  If a thing comes to be that previously was not then it has come from non-existence.  In a sense this seems obvious until you come to consider that the potentiality for it to be must have been.  This potential is the bridge to existence that it needs to come to be in the first place.  The Buddhists see reality before creation as simply the absence of existence.

     He finally interprets non-existence as absence of manifest existence.

     In the commentary on the next verse he continues the criticism of the idea of something coming from nothing pure and simple.  If that were the case someone looking for  pot material would not in the first instance seek a lump of clay.


Back to a discussion of Upadesa Sahasri.

On pages 21&22 Sankara discusses the locus of pain.  If they were in the Self they could not be perceived by the Self as the Self could not grasp itself.  So they are other than the Self.  This is an important statement of the witness which can be taken for a mental subject/mental object theory.  “People point out pain caused by burns and the like to be in that place where they occur but not in the perceiver.”

#35 has the statement which seems to imply an inner distance.  “Moreover, (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.  Therefore, as it is perceived to have the same seat as burns, cuts and the like, pain must be an object of perception like them.  Since it is and effect it must have a receptacle like that in which rice is cooked.  The impressions of pain must have the same seat as pain itself.”

     How does this differ from psycho-physical dualism.  Because the nature of the witness is different there is no falling into infinite regress as is claimed by the Vijnanvadin in B.S.B.

     The first and chiefest difference between the Saksin and the Ghost in the Machine is that sense impressions are in the same place as lust, deliberation and doubt viz. the intellect.  Stimuli and universals, concepts are all distinguished from the Self.  The Self in this case has the upadhi of the mind which turns it into the saksin which is individuated because minds are individual as the body also is.  In fact intellect, mind, body and senses all together represent the jiva or individual and there is no divide betweent the mind and the body for instance as there is in classic dualism.