Consciousness in VishiShTAdvaita VedAnta

Balaji Hebbar bhebbar at EROLS.COM
Sun Feb 7 00:13:38 UTC 1999

In  reply  to  Mr. Gantsen's  query  on  VishiShTAdvaita  VedAnta:

VishiShTAdvaita  VedAnta  posits  two  types  of  consciousness  in
regards  to  the  individual  soul  (jIvAtmA).

1.  SvarUpajNAna  (essential  consciousness):  This  consciousness  is
spiritual  in  nature.  It  is  of  the  very  essence  of  the  soul.
When  the  soul  is  described  as  saccidAnanda,  this  is  the  "cid"
referred  to  therein.  It  is  both  self-luminous  and
self-conscious.  It  is  pure  subjective  consciousness.  It  is  of
the  nature  "I  am"  (ahamasmItibhAvaH).  However,  it  cannot  know
its  object  without  the  help  of  another  type  of  consciousness.

2.  DharmabhUtajNAna  (attributive  consciousness):  This  consciousness
is  neither  material  nor  spiritual  in  nature,  but  rather
immaterial  (ajaDa)  in  nature.  It  brings  about  the
epistemological  rapproachment  between  the  spiritual  and  the
material  worlds.  It  is  a  permanent  adjunct  to  the  soul.
Ontologically,  it  is  both  a  substance  as  well  as  an  attribute.
It  is  self-luminous  but  not  self-conscious.  It  is  like  a  lamp
which  can  show  both  itself  and  its  object  but  cannot  know
either  itself  or  its  object.  It  subserves  the  soul  which  is
the  real  knower  (jNAtA).  Depanding  on  the  shape,  size  and
distance  of  the  object  to  the  perceiving  soul,  dharmabhUtajNAna
is  subject  to  contraction  and  expansion.

In  the  cognition:  As  per  VishiShTAdvaita  philosophers,  the
simple  cognition  "I  know  the  table"  is  actually  of  the  nature
"I  know  that  I  know  the  table",  the  first
"I  know"  is  invariable  and  is  svarUpajNAna  and  the  second  "I
know"  is  variable  in  terms  of  the  objective  content  and  is
dharmabhUtajNAna.  (I  hope  this  illustration  helps!)

Comment:  In  RAmAnuja's  system of  VedAnta,  substance  and  attribute
though  distinct  are  nevertheless  inseparable  (aprthaksiddhabheda).
So,  even  "essential  consciousness"  is  an  attribute  of  the  soul.

Balaji  Hebbar
George  Washington  University
Washington  DC  USA

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