The Concept of Saksi in Advaita Vedanta (A Rare Book)

Item Code: NAG599
Author: A.K. Chatterjee and R.R. Dravid
Publisher: Banaras Hindu University
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 114
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5 inch
Weight 140 gm
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Book Description



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 the book.


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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