Samkara Views on Dualism between the Self and Brahman (2003 Words)

Samkara Views on Dualism between the Self and the Brahman!

Samkara has not admitted any dualism between the self and the Brahman. Self is without particular characteristics.

It is itself Brahman. It is all-pervading and omnipresent. It is one, non-dual, partless, beyond space-time, ultimate and true.

As a matter of fact, Samkara has described Brahman, self and liberation almost in the same terms.


According to Dr. R.P. Singh, Samkara has established an axiological harmony in all these. According to their different temperaments, different interpreters have emphasized different aspects of this synthesis. Dr. Radhakrishnan has emphasized the Brahman aspect of this trinity. Prof. A.C Mukherjee lays emphasis on the self. Prof. R.D. Ranade, on the other hand, specially emphasized the mystic experience.

But Samkara has established an Advaita, which is the same from all sides. According to Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Brahman and the self are both perfect. If the self is taken out of Brahman, Brahman still remains perfect: “That is full, this is full, from that full, this full has been taken and yet whatever remains is also full.”

Brahman is omnipresent in the form of self. In the psychological argument, to prove the existence of Brahman, Samkara has em­phasized precisely this unity of the self and Brahman. According to Samkara, Brahman exists, since every one of us feels the existence of self and one denies its existence. Both self and Brahman have been described as existence, conscious­ness and bliss, eternal and omnipresent, self of all, self-established, immutable, etc.


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According to Samkara, self is present in every stage of consciousness. Man passes through different stages of consciousness, e.g., waking, dreaming and sleeping, but in every stage he experiences that he exists. By an analysis of the state of deep sleep, Samkara has proved the Upanishad view regarding the nature of self. Most of the arguments against the eternal nature of self are based on the hypothesis that the stage of deep sleep is a state of the unconscious.

But, according to Samkara’s analysis, this external unconsciousness is due to the non-existence of the objects of consciousness and not due to the absence of consciousness itself. Samkara has distinguished between self-consciousness and pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is eternal but in the absence of objects, it is not experienced in the form of self-consciousness.

Consciousness is the nature of self. The self perceives even in the stage of deep sleep, though in the absence of the eternal objects, it appears not to be perceiving. Consciousness is the nature of self and not an activity of the self; it is just like the light which is the nature of the sun and not its quality. In the absence of an object, the sun will not enlighten anything and yet this makes no difference in its light.

The eye cannot see the eye; it can only be seen in the mirror. Similarly, some external object is required for consciousness. The Western Vedantins like Deussen failed to evaluate the real importance of Samkara’s analysis of deep sleep. Like Kant, Samkara has particularly emphasized the epistemological aspect of self. The experience, “I slept”, is sufficient to establish the continuity of self in man. Without self no experience of knowledge is possible. The knowledge of change is possible only through an unchanging knower.


Samkara has called the self-consciousness or knowledge. According to him, it is a universal truth that knowledge is not possible without the knower. It is this fact which he has emphasised in the third chapter of his Upadesha Sahasrari and the commentary on the Prasnopanishad Knowledge does not create the objects as is sometimes supposed by the idealists like Berkeley.

But without knowledge the existence of the object is almost equal to non-existence because it is meaning­less. Like the realists, Samkara admits that the object is outside the mind, but then, like Kant, he thinks that mind alone gives meaning to the external world. Modern psychology also supports this view. It is impossible to prove that the object exists without its being known. It is impossible that there may be colour without some eye to perceive it.

The knowledge of an object must precede the judgment about its existence. According to Samkara, no one can prove that there is some object which is not known, and the effort to prove this is as meaningless as to admit that there is colour without the existence of eyes. Taking this argument further, Samkara says, “Even the non-existence of any object cannot be established in the absence of knowledge.” According to Sureshwara, all objects exist by the self.

The self cannot be denied. It is non-contradictory. It is beyond all activities. It is always present. It is neither external nor internal. It is the centre of the mind, the senses and the world of external objects. The meaning of the objects depends on their relations with this centre. It is power of consciousness and the seer of all the concepts.

In his Naiskarmyasiddhi, Sureshwara has supported this by saying that self and not-self in the world depend upon the sources of knowledge like perception, etc., but the not-self always depends on the existence of self. The self is the witness of the universe.

The self is the basis of all testimonies. Hence, it is proved even before the use of any testimony. The self is Swayamsiddhi while the not-self is Agantuka. The self is beyond all testimonies. It is not an effect because every effect has its cause. It is the cause or substratum of all the objects and is itself beyond cause and effect, etc.

As against the Western philosophers, like James and Hume, and also the Buddhist philosophers, Samkara argues that the self cannot be a process or an unchanging substance, because the knowledge of every change requires an unchanging knower. As against the materialists, like the Charvaka philosophers, Samkara says that they confuse the Swayamsiddhi or self-evident self with Agantuka or adventitious self.

The self is the source of all testimonies and hence it cannot be condemned by any testimony. Even the negative of the self is impossible in the absence of self. According to Samkara, there are two elements, in perception—Bodh and Vritti. Bodh is self-proved, permanent, seer and witness. Vritti is adventitious, changing, unstable, and object.

In the states of deep sleep and Turiya, there is no vritti, but Bodh. Hence, they are not unconscious states. They are conscious states but not self-conscious because of the absence of vritti. This analysis of Samkara finds support in the view of some of the Western philosophers like Green and Kant.

Self is without attributes, without parts; it is all-pervading and non-dual. The Jiva is conditional, limited and many. It possesses parts, like Antahakarana. The self is ultimate and transcendental, while the jiva is pragmatic and psychological. Because of the mind, intellect and ego, the jiva is personal. The self is impersonal. The jiva is not a part or mode of self, but its reflection.

The jiva is the doer, enjoyer and seer. The self is non-doer. In it there is no distinction of the actor and the action, cause and effect. All these distinctions are due to ignorance. The self is eternally liberated. It is not-caught in the enjoyments of the world. It is conscious and of the nature of light It is attributeless conscious­ness and as such it is beyond merit and demerit, pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion, desire, volition and action, bondage, liberation and transmigration, etc., which are the characteristics of the jiva.

The jiva is caught in right and wrong, profit and loss, fame and defame, etc., while the self is free from all. The jiva has a subtle body and a causal body. Its external body is composed of the five elements, the sense organs and vital power while the subtle body is composed of the five sense organs, five motor organs, five pranas, the mind and the intellect. It remains in the waking, sleeping and dreaming states.

The self is Turiya which is unconditional, homogeneous and immortal. The jiva is the object of the concept of T. The self is known through immediate experience. The self is beyond space, time, and causality. It is of the nature of bliss, conscious and divine. But this distinction of jiva and self is valid only on the pragmatic level.

In the philosophy of Samkara all dualisms disappear on the transcendental level. The distinction of jiva and self is due to ignorance and Maya. As they disappear on the transcendental level, this distinction also disappears, and the real essence of the jiva i.e., the self, alone remains. Thus ultimately the self or the Brahman is the only eternal truth, all else is ignorance and adventitious.

Like the Nyaya Vaisesika philosophers of India, John Locke, among the Western philosophers, maintained that consciousness is the quality of self. In this view, self is merely an unconscious substance. The consciousness is a quality originated by the contact of the self with the mind and sense organs. According to Jayanta, in contact with the mind, the self is conscious, but without it, it is unconscious.

In the Tarkapada of his commentary on Brahma Sutra, Samkara has indicated that according to some followers of Kanada, the consciousness is born in the same way as the red colour is created in the jug by contact with fire. According to Samkara, the main fallacy in such a view is to misunderstand the Swayamsiddha or self-evident self as Agantuka or the adventitious self. If the self is always joined with the mind, memory, perception, etc., should always happen but such is not the case in experience.

The self is attributeless, without particulars, unique and unattached. Scriptures are against the Nyaya view. Consciousness is not the quality of self but its nature. The self is of the nature of consciousness, right witness, always existent and pure external Bodh. It is always conscious.

The above arguments also apply against the conception of the Materialists and Vijnanavadin Buddhists. All objects depend upon consciousness. Hence, con­sciousness itself cannot be an object and while matter is one of the objects of self, the self cannot be matter. The self is of the nature of Bodh. All the concepts are its objects and the mental modifications are its concepts.

Hence the self cannot be Alayavijnan. It is rather the witness of the changing states of Alayavijnan. Ac­cording to Kumarila, the self is the generator of knowledge. Samkara, the other hand, maintains that it is beyond activity and enjoyment. Knowledge is created and destroyed and hence if the self is based it, it must have parts, and be non-eternal, impure and pragmatic. But the self is eternal. It is without distinctions of knower, known and knowledge. It is not adventitious but self-evident.

Like the Western philosopher Bradly, Nagarjuna admits the self as Sunya. By utilising his fourfold logic, Nagarjuna has tried to prove the self as non-existent, like the son of a barren woman. Though Samkara has been sometimes called cropto-Buddhist, he has vehemently criticised nihilism and warned against the confusion of Brahman or self with Sunya. He has gone to the extent of saying that since nihilism is opposed to all testimonies, it is not even worth criticising.

However, he has further pointed out that underlying every logical denial there must be some affirmation. If all the objects are negated, even the negation- becomes impossible. In his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Samkara has indicated this fact by emphasizing the epistemological aspect of self, Even if it is left undecided whether the subject of knowledge is existent or non-existent, the consciousness of Jnana must be pre-supposed by every object.

In his commentary on Prasnopanisad, Samkara has pointed out that the nihilists should at least admit that the knower is knowledge and eternal. In the absence of the knower, even the negation of the knowledge is unimaginable. Without knowledge, even the existence of ignorance cannot be conceived. Hence, Jnana consciousness and self are self-evident and the source of all testimonies.

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