In the present work Dr.
A. K. Chatterjee and Dr. R. R. Dravid
have made a systematic and critical study of the concept of Saksi
as it has been formulated and developed in the Advaita
Vedanta. The concept of Saksi occupies a most
important place in the Advaita Vedanta and is vital
for a thorough under- standing of the Advaita-metaphysics,
epistemology and its philosophy of moksa. It
provides a deep insight into the deeper dimensions of human personality. The
study of Saksi thus constitutes a study of man in
depth. It shows his involvement in time and history and makes him aware of his
existential situation. But it at the same time makes man conscious of his
transcendence, of his essential and inherent freedom from time and history and
of his capacity to keep himself free from the illusions and sufferings of life.
The learned authors have discussed the concept
of Saksi in its proper historical perspective. The
book provides a clear idea of how this concept was developed in the Upanisads, the Pre-Sankara
Vedanta, by Sankara himself and his great followers.
The authors have taken great pains in analysing and examining the nature of Saksi in the light of the views propounded in some of the
standard texts of the Advaita Vedanta, They have
brought out the distinction of Saksi from Brahman, Isvara and Jiva with great
clarity and thoroughness. The book is a brilliant scholarly work and should
make a distinct and valuable contribution to the extant literature on the Advaita Vedanta.
The book has been published by utilizing the
grants made by the University Grants Commission for publication by this
Department. We express our grateful thanks to the Commission for these grants.
We also thank the Manager and the staff of the
Banaras Hindu University Press for undertaking the responsibility of printing
Our thanks and appreciation are also due to Shri K. N. Mishra, Reader of this
Department, who has taken great pains in going through the proofs and has all
along shown keen and active interest in the publication of this work.
Considering the crucial importance of the
basic- concept of Saksi, it is surprising that its
discussion is so scanty and unsystematic in the modern exegetical literature on
Advaita Vedanta. Hardly any attention is paid to the
aura of unclarity surrounding the notion. Even in the
classical literature, attention devoted to the elucidation of the concept is
not adequate. We collected together the scatterd
passages in the texts where some attempt at exegesis has been made and we
discovered that the discussion is not at all plentiful. Sharp distinctions do
not emerge, implications are not fully worked out. It
appears that the notion of saksi was so primary in Advaita epistemology that it was more or less taken for
granted, requiring no further investigation. No major debate raged round the
concept with the result that precision was not called forth. Conceptual
boundaries were not carefully delineated and much looseness remains in our
interpretation of the notion. A modest attempt is made here to fill the lacuna
in our understanding of an ancient. tradition. Most of
the important texts were surveyed by us, relevant passages culled together, and
what follows is a more or less connected account of the material collected. We
do not claim any originality for our account, as our emphasis had ever been
more on coherence of the picture than on branching out in new hermeneutical
directions. We are painfully aware of the many loose ends left untied, and we
can only hope that our meagre discussion would be sufficiently provocative to
scholars who would complete what we: have begun.
Advaita, as the
appellation suggests, is a theory of non-dualism, rather than of monism.
Identity is not so much asserted, as difference annulled. Identity remains a
primary implicate of all propositions rather than itself being expressed
through propositions. It is the horizon in which the play of propositions takes
place. This negative approach is the characteristic difference between pre-Sarikara monistic Vedanta and its transformation by Sankara into non-dualistic absolutism. Every proposition is
an assertion of identity, marked by the apparent distinctions which swim at the
surface but fail to distort the basic identity. The task of philosophy is to
remove these accretions, and not to establish the underlying identity which is
given in revelation. Philosophy is asymptotic to reality, it leads up to it but
then, the goal reached, itself falls away. Philosophy in its entirety is a kind
of cosmic laksana.
This identity as revealed by the upanisads is Brahman.
Brahman is the ultimate reality, and is of the nature of consciousness.
It is one without a second, non-dual, the only reality that there is. It is one
unitary whole, devoid of any kind of distinction, the prius
of everything that could appear in consciousness. It is neutral and passive,
neither owning nor repelling the various ascriptions that might be imposed on
it. It is characterless, indeterminate, beyond the pale of any kind of
predication. Predicates import determination but all determination is
essentially negation. It can be characterized only as what could not be
characterized; negative description is the only description possible. It is the
utter beyond, beyond all language, beyond even all conceptualization.
If we are left with such a completely transcendent
reality, it is difficult to see what it can do to motivate and enrich the
spiritual pilgrimage towards liberation. Its non-duality would seem to preclude
the very possibility of empirical existence. There would be no striving for
progress, since there would be nobody to undertake such a striving. There would
be no problem and, consequently, no philosophy as the solution to problems.
There would be no revelation; to whom would the revelation be directed? There
would be no world and no bondage.
Reality therefore has to be shown, not merely
as sheer transcendence, something 'out there', but as complete immanence, as
the indwelling essence of everything that appears to be. Transcendence, bereft
of immanence, itself postulates a duality and, as such,
militates against the non-dual nature of reality. There is no incompatibility
between these two aspects, which are really two facets of the same situation.
If empirical existence had substantial reality of its own, we could talk of
transcendence of Brahman, as
opposed to its immanence within empiricality. Upanisads therefore declare that the world is naught! Brahman alone exists and, as such, is
transcendent. But it is also the reality of the world, in the sense that, when
the hollowness of the pretensions of the latter is realized, Brahman alone is left over.
It has therefore to be shown how the real gets
involved in the unreal, and how the initial mistaken step is to be retraced-the
involvement and the withdrawal being both progressions within the unreal.
Ontologically, the process never took place, nothing really happened. But still
the involvement is there as a fact to be reckoned with. The involvement of the
real in the unreal takes two complementary directions, giving rise to two
different but related approaches to the absolute. Being in the world is being a
subject confronted with the objects. Both are founded on the same reality, viz.
Brahman, and are to be
understood as two orders of ascriptions. They appear as two different sorts of
entities, but are essentially one and the same reality. That which brings them
together, makes one relevant to the other, is Brahman, which is reached as the result of an essentialistic analysis of both the know
her and the known. Nothing has done more harm to Advaita as
giving it an idealistic and subjectivistic twist. Advaita Vedanta is a subtly realistic metaphysics. The
subject or the knower is never claimed to be the sole reality; the object known is equally real in its own right.
What saves the theory from naive realism is the doctrine that neither term in the knowledge situation enjoys an intrinsic reality of its own. Both are
ascriptions, appearances of the same reality, which latter is thus to be
equated with neither. Brahman is
not more of a subject than an object. Both are equally unreal, but based
equally on the same ground. Brahman as
the reality to be known, and atman as
the knower, coalesce in the final analysis.
There is thus a two-fold investigation into the
nature of the ground on which all duality is based. There is, first, unearthing
the ground of the world of phenomena, that underlying principle which lends
intelligibility to the objects, that because of which the latter can stand out
as 'objects' at all. There is, on the other hand, digging into the depths of
the subject, an analysis of the complexities of the knowing process, an
investigation into the structured stratification of the knowing self. What is
the self ? What constitutes the 'selfhood' of the subject ? How is it to be demarcated from the object ? Could it itself be distinguished as an object ? How
does it reveal or illumine its object? The Advait in
tries to answer these questions, and in his attempt to reach the very
foundation of knowing, he arrives at the notion of a 'witness-self' or saksi which stands behind everything that
is known, which shines forth in its own light which never goes out, which is in
itself and not in relation to something else, which reveals eternally and
without break, which remains awake when everything goes to sleep. This saksi is the ground of the notion of 'I',
the reality to which the latter is ascribed. It is the basic epistemological
principle of Advaita Vedanta.
Anticipations and Adumbrations
The 'I' and Beyond
Anatomy of Sleep
The World of Dreams
Structure 01 Illusion
Happiness and Pain
Analytic of Experience
Modes of Consciousness
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