by Swami Krishnananda
The body is illumined by a twofold consciousness in the same manner as a wall, for example, can be illumined by two types of light. Just as a wall can be lighted up directly by the sun as well as by the reflection of the sun through a mirror, and we can observe the natural sunlight on the wall existing in the middle of the different patches of reflected light, so also we can observe the natural consciousness of the Atman between different thoughts and feelings, in the short span of time when one thought subsides and another thought has not yet arisen. Generally speaking, the human mind gets attached to certain objects, and its perception is always coloured by the nature of the object to such an extent that there is no time left for the mind to contemplate the Consciousness as it is in itself, unconnected with the objects. It is possible by careful and thorough investigation and psychological processes to differentiate between the factors that belong to the object and those that belong to Pure Consciousness. In the waking, the dreaming, as well as in the deep sleep states, it is possible to make this analysis by which we are enabled to dissect consciousness from the object. An object is known by the mind with the assistance of Chidabhasa-chaitanya (consciousness reflected through the intellect, or the psyche), and it is by this that we know there is such a thing as an object or a form, but the Consciousness behind the ‘I’, which is at the background of even the object consciousness is Brahma-chaitanya (Absolute Consciousness), designated here as Kutastha (internal Self). The knowledge, “This is a body” is brought about by the Chidabhasa, and the knowledge, “I know the body” has its reference to Kutastha. Even the knowledge of the absence of an object is based on the Consciousness of the Kutastha, and it is this very Consciousness that enables, later on, the particular form of perception in relation to an object. As an arrow may be sharpened with a pointed steel-head for the sake of hitting objects, the Buddhi, or the intellect, has in itself the projecting form of Consciousness of the Chidabhasa. It is when this Chidabhasa begins to act that we have object-consciousness; otherwise there is ignorance of it, the Consciousness not being particularised. Both the unknown and known conditions of an object are, thus, finally rooted in Brahman-Consciousness, as Kutastha-chaitanya. The intellect by itself cannot know an object, because it is, after all, a modification of Prakriti (cosmic matter). Just as matter cannot know matter, the intellect cannot know an object. What is known is material and what knows is Consciousness. The freedom of the Consciousness lies in its Self-realisation that it is independent and absolute and is not really tainted by the nature of any object at all. (Verses 1-9).
The perception of an object is due to the activity of the mind, or the intellect, in regard to it, together with the Chidabhasa attending on it. It is these that become responsible for an active perception of the object. It is not the General Consciousness of Brahman but the reflected consciousness, Chidabhasa, that particularises knowledge. As Brahman is present always, it cannot be said that it is manifesting itself only during the perception of an object. It is the Chidabhasa that rises and falls, but Brahma-Chaitanya is always there, and has no beginning or end. There is a verse quoted from Suresvaracharya (a pupil of Sri Sankara) to the effect that Consciousness which manifests itself as an illuminating factor in all external perceptions is really the ultimate object to be known. Here, while Suresvara regards Consciousness as the ultimate end of endeavour, what he means is that the ultimate Consciousness, for all perception, being Brahman itself, it is the Goal of all aspirations, but he does not mean that this Consciousness is the Chidabhasa, because, the latter is absolutely dependent upon the Kutastha. This has been mentioned also by Sankara in his Upadesasahasri. When there is a manifestation of the Chidabhasa there is external perception, but the Chidabhasa is itself illumined by another Consciousness as even the absence of any particular object is known by it. The mental modifications, the Chidabhasa and the object, all these three, are simultaneously illumined by the General Consciousness, but the Chidabhasa can illumine only the object. Thus, the distinction between the two is clear.
In the perception of an object, there is a twofold consciousness, one particular and another general. Some schools of thought regard the General Consciousness as Knowledge of knowledge or Knowledge of perception, calling it Anuvyavasaya. The knowledge, “This is an object” is due to the activity of Chidabhasa, and the knowledge, “I know the object” or “the object is known by me,” is due to the existence of Brahman. This distinction between the particular and the General Consciousness made, thus, in external perception, is also to be made in internal perceptions. The Chidabhasa lights up the modifications of the psychological instruments in the form of the ‘I’, as well as its ramifications such as desire, anger, and so on, as fire can heat up an iron ball. Just as a red hot iron ball can illumine itself, but does not illuminate other objects, so do the psychoses within (Vrittis) illumine themselves, being enlightened by the Chidabhasa, but do not directly illumine other objects. These psychoses within come in a series as bits of a process, with intervals between the different links of the process, and do not flow continuously. Also, they get dissolved in sleep, swoon and Samadhi (Super-Consciousness). The intervals between the various processes of thought as well as the absence of thought itself are illumined by an Unchangeable Consciousness, which is the Kutastha, as in the perception of an external object; the object is known distinctly and the General Consciousness is not so known. The psychoses as thoughts and feelings etc. are known more clearly than the General Consciousness of the Kutastha which is continuously present, whether thoughts come or go. In the case of the psychoses of the Antahkarana (internal organ) there is no question of known-ness and unknown-ness, because they are self-luminous and, hence, there is no chance of their either knowing themselves as objects or not knowing themselves at all. This happens also in the case of inert objects where Consciousness is absolutely absent and in which case there cannot be any such thing as known-ness. The subject does not become an object where either Consciousness is totally absent or where there is self-luminosity. In the two types of awareness mentioned, the particular one which gets itself connected to objects has a beginning and an end, and because of its changeful nature, it is different from the General Consciousness behind it, which is immutable and is, therefore, called Kutastha. There has to be posited a witness of the modifications of the mind; otherwise they cannot be known even to exist, and as it is in the case of the reflection of a face in a mirror, where the mirror is the medium and the face is the original with its reflection, in the case of the Self, too, the Anthahkarana is the medium, the reflection is the Chidabhasa, and the Atma, or Kutastha, is the original.
It is not that the Atman by its being at the back of even the process of transmigration undergoes any change. The limitation referred to here as the Chidabhasa is not merely like the limitation of the vast space by the walls of a jar for example, because the Atman does not become a Jiva, or the individual, merely by an enclosure. We cannot say that the Atman has become the Jiva, just because we have raised some walls around with material substance. The difference is that in the case of the Jiva, the Buddhi is transparent, but mere transparency is not the sole conditioning factor, because there may not be any difference in certain cases even when there is transparency such as in a glass measure, which, after all, can contain only as much quantity of grain as wooden measure. What makes the essential difference is not merely the limitation but the reduction of quality by quantity by reflection, and it is here that we notice a difference between the original and the reflection. We call that a reflection which appears to be like original, but does not have really the characteristics of the original.