The transcendent identity of being is the test of reality in the Advaita of Shri Shankara

Appearance cannot be ignored or negated.It exists in knowledge along with knowledge. It is positive and definite. It exists in time and in space. But this is no proof of its reality nor is it a mark of truth. A thing is not true because it appears or it does not appear. An appearance may be positive and may disappear tomorrow like a rainbow or the sailing clouds or the glory of a Timur. It is no ground of its truth. A psychological or epistemological test is no test of the reality of appearance. The real test of truth is a transcendent test. Nothing in the realm of duality is truth. It is the transcendent identity of being which is the test of reality in the Advaita of Shri Shankara. The realm of duality is the realm of change. How can it be called real if it  contradicts itself constantly? An appearance is unreal not because of its wrong said inaccurate localization or its inadaptability to practical purpose. Because the electrons play no part in the world of senses therefore they do not exist – is no valid argument. A vritti, Shri Shankara holds, is true and real in the practical realm (Vyavaharika). But a projection is declared false when we perceive its locus. It may be said that an appearance may be true and also false, according to the knowledge or ignorance of its locus. Because an appearance is self-conscious and self revealing therefore it is true – is no valid argument. Consciousness (Chetana) reveals its existence as much as its non-existence. The mere self-consciousness of an object is no test of its truth. It is an enduring affirmation and existence of a fact which establish its reality or unreality.

Nescience, or ajnana, has no definite origin, though it has a definite end. The dream world is not constructed by an architect though it ends with awakening consciousness. The author of Nyaya Sutras raises many objections to this theory, but we need not deal with them here. Madhusudana Saraswati makes it clear that positiveness and truth are not identical. Here the pragmatic theory of sansara also breaks down. Avidya is said to be positive but it is not truth. Truth is that which exists eternally in one and the same mode of being.

The identity of cause and effect is not a fact. It will lead to endless confusion if this theory is accepted. The appearance changes but its locus is always the same. Though truth is the locus of the endless chain of cause and effect, it is ever the same. The essential changes in the objects appear in the realm of avidya but not in Brahman which is Sat. The avidya is positive and is liable to transformation. But this does not establish the law of identity of cause and effect.

The Self or Atman is the positive of all positives. It is indeed the causa materialis of the world. This is a superficial objection. The positiveness of existence does not prove the materiality of causation. Materiality indicates the possibility of transformation. This cannot apply to Atman which is above the nature of causation and change.

Avidya is revealed to the witness- consciousness and not to pure consciousness, says Madhusudana Saraswati. Brahman is not the percipi of Brahman. The witness- consciousness has no object and it does not reveal. It is intuition itself. Liberation means crossing the witness-consciousness itself It is the transcendent isolation, pure and simple. Avidya and intelligence co-exist and are co-eternal to a point. The location of avidya in Brahman is denied. Brahman is without attributes. Expressiveness is no attribute of Brahman; it is attributed to Sakshi. Avidya is not negation of consciousness. It is not something which exists prior to knowledge. Avidya is not opposed to knowledge, nor is it total negation of knowledge. It is a mystery so long as not fully understood. It is positive, different from consciousness, but not wholly opposed to it. It is not denial of knowledge. Chitsukhacharya makes the point clear.

Avidya does not need any reference to knowledge as it is conceived as existence by itself – Sat Bhava. It may also be remembered that the existence of avidya is revealed by knowledge. This is the only reference nescience has to consciousness. Avidya is not prior non-cognition, as some of the teachers hold. It is an indefinite indeterminate, positive existence as Swami Sadananda points out clearly. The direct Experience  “I do not know any experience beside me”, does not refer to any definite ignorance. But the fact is otherwise.

Ramanuja and other theistic schools deny nescience. Shri Shankara accepts it. Consciousness, in the philosophy of Shri Shankara, is static. Intuition (Samadhi) is not experience. It transcends experience. It is aparoksha, as Shri Shankara calls it. The appearance – sansara – has a pragmatic value; but it is not absolute, though sansara has a positive reality.

The intuition of practical reason, though self-evident to pragmatic and empirical consciousness, has no transcendent existence, as Brahman. The categories of practical reason are true only for a divided vision of duality in life, in immanence, but not in the absolute consciousness.

Index for this series on Fundamental points on the Advaita of Shri Shankara that are overlooked or misunderstood:

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