35.7 THE LIGHT OF ALL LIGHTS - 7
(Summary of Br. U. (4.3.6. 4.3.7. etc.) Bhashya by Adi Shankara
Now arises the basic question. If ‘I’ thus refers to only the mind as sleeper, waker, dreamer, then why can’t we conclude that the mind is the Atman? Why do we have to bring in a sAkshI? So let us discuss the purpose and role of sAkshI.
Take the case of any perception. I see a book. Just now we concluded that this ‘I’ refers to the mind. It is so because the seeing phenomenon is taking place in the mind only. So mind is the subject and book is the object. But two things are being simultaneously known here when one talks of this perception: ‘mind’ and ‘book’. Who is aware of both these simultaneously? We cannot say that mind is aware of both ‘mind’ as subject and ‘book’ as object. How does mind know of anything or is aware of anything? Only through a thought (Vrtti) process. And mind entertains only one vRtti at a time. So when I say ‘I see this book’, mind being the subject of this seeing, it knows the book by entertaining a book-AkAra-vRtti (vRtti in the form of a book). But when this entertaining of book-vRtti is happening, mind cannot entertain a mind-vRtti in order to know itself as subject of perception. Then how does the mind know itself as the subject of perception of the book? If mind knows itself by a mind-AkAra-vRtti, then at that time it cannot know the book.
Mind as the ‘I’ is known not only at the time of book perception; it is known as the ‘I’ during all perceptions. At any time of such perception mind has no way of knowing itself as the subject of perception. Thus the fact of the action in ‘I see a book’ requires some light-principle to simultaneously know both the mind and the book, while the mind as subject ‘sees’ the book. This light-principle is not the mind as we saw just now. Of course this light-principle could be the mind, if mind were self-effulgent (so that there would be no necessity for mind to ‘know’ the mind); and this is what the buddhists say, namely, mind is self-effulgent, it is the Atman. But mind being self effulgent is against shruti-pramANa (recall: annamayam hi manaH). Also we know by reasoning that every changing vastu is inert matter and therefore non-self-effulgent. Mind is as much changing as any other matter. Mind is prakRti-vikAraH, says the Gita. Therefore mind is anAtmA and so not self-effulgent.
So for mind to know itself as a continuous subject in all perceptions there must be another light principle which is where the role of sAkshI appears.
Whenever we say ‘I slept’ ,‘I see a book’ etc., ‘I’ is the mind, but we are able to refer to the mind because the light of sAkshI illumines it. So ‘I’ refers to the mind, but ‘I’ implies or presupposes sAkshi caitanyam. The Caitanyam part in the ‘I’ belongs to the Sakshi and the jaDa part in the ‘I’ refers to the mind, the very mind which is illumined by sAkshI. This sAkshI ‘I’ is the svayam jyotiH of BrihadAraNyakopanishad. The mind-‘I’ is not svayam jyoti. But both are constantly present in every transaction (vyvavahAra) that ‘I’ makes; the antaHkaraNaM ‘I’ as the subject and the sAkshI ‘I’ that gives awareness (prakAsha) to the other. Both can be referred to as ‘I’ provided we understand that one is svayam jyoti and the other is not. The shAstras therefore say that the ‘antaHkaraNaM’ is the vAcyArtha (word-meaning, primary meaning) of ‘I’ and the ‘awareness in the antaHkaraNam’ is the lakshyArtha (intended meaning, secondary meaning) of ‘I’.
Om shAntiH shAntiH shAntiH