A Treatise on the Vedanta Philosophy and Its Methodology
by Swami Krishnananda
Philosophical investigation and the heart’s innate longing are unanimous in ascertaining that the One Absolute Brahman alone is the Reality. If Brahman is the Truth, all outward forms of experience can only be an appearance. Brahman is not an object to be attained as something which is in space, because it is the Self of all, and not an external entity second to the Self. It is not even the object of knowing, for it alone is the eternal Subject of Knowledge, and the process of knowing is a psychosis which is a phenomenon. There is no such thing as knowing Brahman, because the knower of Brahman cannot separate himself from it. It is not an object of meditation, for meditation is thought, which involves a dualistic functioning, and a dualistic being is not Brahman. Brahman is not reached by thinking of any kind. Brahman is not an object of love, devotion or worship, for all these presuppose relational categories belonging to the changing world, which cannot be the essential Brahman. The Real can never be a matter for dealing in any way. It cannot be seen, heard, understood or known even through millions of years of hard objective effort in the space-time-world. The Absolute transcends every function, becoming and process. It is beyond thought, emotion, will, feeling, sensation, ascertainment, name, form and action. An individual as an individual can never know what is not an individual. We cannot know what we are not in our core. All that we know and experience is not beyond what we are ourselves potentially or manifestly. Every being is locked up within its own experience and it cannot know anything other than itself. Knowing and being are one and the same, and hence, we cannot know a thing without being that thing. All that is external to us is a reflection of our consciousness and there is nothing existent which our consciousness is not, ultimately. Whatever we are, that alone everything is. This extension of the subject to its objects of perception is, however, in the world of the consciousness of relative individuality, psychological, and from the standpoint of Consciousness itself, metaphysical. While the form in which an object is known to a relative subject is peculiar to the modes of its own cognitive organs, the reality that underlies this form is not governed by the categories through which the cognitive organs of the subject operate in knowing that form. The existence of the person who is perceived is not contained in and ruled by the conditions of the objectified consciousness of the person who perceives by being subject to these conditions. The world is not the creation of any particular individual’s thinking process, though all the particulars given of the known object to a knowing subject are what are cast in the moulds of the internal organs of the knowing subject. Though there is an objective reality which is known as having a form by the subject through a psychological modification, it has to be accepted that, as far as the subject is concerned, its experience is its truth, whether or not external objects exist as realities in themselves. When viewing from the level on which a relative subject stands, what becomes clear is that the experiences of that subject which are inseparable from its objective consciousness are its private conditions, and yet, from its viewpoint external objects exist, without admitting which even its own experiences cannot be accounted for. If there is no real object, there cannot be a real subject, too. The degree of reality which is revealed by the subject and which proves its existence is present in its object also, though this relative reality of the object may be sublated when that condition in which the subject perceives this object is sublated through a higher knowledge of a deeper essence of itself. This is the individualistic significance of the dependence of the object on the subject.
But in Consciousness as such, the whole objective nature of the world gets negatived, without even the least trace of the ignorance in the form of the notion of the reality of a second to Consciousness. In Consciousness the universe is transfigured and realised as itself. Whatever is known is Consciousness and not another. Consciousness is the Absolute and therefore no objective reality can be posited in regard to it. Though an objective world equal in reality to the relative subject is known to exist from the standpoint of the subject, whatever be the degree of reality manifested by it, notwithstanding the categories in which it is bound up and of which alone it has the experience, no such external world can exist to Pure Consciousness, for it does not cognise or perceive through the mind or the intellect and the senses, and its experience is immediate, non-relative. It is Self-Knowledge and not knowledge of an object or a state of existence. In the Absolute there is no external consciousness, no objective psychological process, no dualistic reality. In the state of the individual, however, there is subjective experience of an objective reality which has the twofold nature of being the subject’s knowledge or experience of its conditions and the conditions of the external world, and the external world itself independent of the subject’s experiences. This external world is valid to the individual but not to the Absolute.
Thus, the conception of the nature of Reality is a modification of the internal organ which acts within the boundaries of space, time and causation. The moment thought crosses these categories, it is no more thought and there is no cognitive functioning. As long as we feel that we are not Brahman, Brahman to us is only what we think it to be. Hence, all these processes that are meant to lead us to Truth-realisation are limited, and not perfect in themselves. “The Eternal is not reached through the non-eternal” (Katha Up., II. 10). “Just as those who do not know the spot walk over a hidden treasure of gold again and again, but do not find it, even so all these beings go day by day to that Abode of Brahman, but do not find it; for, truly, they are carried astray by what is false” (Chh. Up., VIII. 3. 2). Those who live in the region of thought cannot fathom the depths of the being of Reality.
Since bondage consists in mere ignorance of an existent Fact, liberation consists in Pure Knowledge of Truth. This knowledge is not the apara-vidya or the lower knowledge which is concerned with the thinking process, but para-vidya, the higher knowledge “by which That Imperishable One is attained”, which is the direct immediacy of Self-Identical Consciousness. Pure Knowledge is not a vritti of the manas, but the svarupa of the Atman. It is not so much knowing as being; it is not becoming. One cannot remove wrong knowledge by adoring or loving wrong knowledge, not even by meditating on wrong knowledge. The misconception of the rope as a snake cannot be sublated by meditating on the snake or worshipping the snake. It is knowledge that removes ignorance, fear and pain. Objectless knowledge, free from activity of all kind, is what is meant by that knowledge which brings instantaneous liberation, sadyo-mukti. Brahman is unknowable through means which serve an end. Pure Knowledge is not a means to an end but the end itself. It is not “knowing something”, but simply “Knowledge”. The moment Pure Knowledge dawns, there is a simultaneous and sudden illumination of Existence and the disappearance of nescience and bondage. “By knowing Him alone, one reaches the Immortal; there is no other way to go over there” (Svet. Up., III. 8). Knowledge alone is moksha.
“He who knows that Supreme Brahman becomes Brahman itself.” —Mun. Up., III. 2. 9.
If a person wants to reach himself, there is no process of walking to himself or approaching himself through any relational functioning. To reach himself is to know himself. Here knowing is not a means to reach himself but knowing itself is reaching. It is like a sleeping man waking up and knowing himself, which is also at once being himself. Means and end are identical in the case of the knowledge of something which is the very being of him who tries to know it. This knowledge is not dependent on the capricious knowing subject, but the nature of the Object, Brahman, which is eternally real. No action which involves an objective modification can sublate the primal ignorance, for such action is not antagonistic to ignorance. Ignorance cannot remove ignorance, even as darkness cannot remove darkness. The method of Pure Knowledge is the absolute way of realising the Absolute. Here the way and the destination are the same. Consciousness, even when it is in the state of apparent limitation, is controlled by the absolute law of its higher real nature which is not within the sphere of an individual necessity. All thought is perforce based on the principle of the Conscious Integration of Existence. Pain is the effect of directing thought against the Absolute Necessity which requires, according to the rule of perfection of existence, each state of the individual consciousness to attune itself to it. Pure Knowledge simply illumines us, but does not require us to do something after that illumination. Pure Knowledge is not an act, for it is not independent of that which is to be known. Even shravana, manana and nididhyasana are not actions in the true sense, for they presuppose the knowledge of that which is their aim. Ascertainment of the nature of Reality is itself the beginning of the process of Truth-realisation. Intellect and intuition are not antagonistic but differ only in the degree and the nature of their comprehension of Truth. The direct knowledge of Reality is the zenith of the experience which has its starting point in the shining of the higher purified intellect. It does not, however, mean that intellectual appreciation of Reality is the goal of philosophy, for the search after Truth does not end here. But it cannot be denied that our perception of Reality has, somehow, a direct bearing on how far we succeed in shaking ourselves free from the conviction that the world of appearance is real. Intellect is lifted up and not nullified in intuition. Viveka is not the intuitional Truth but an intellectual discrimination, and yet, it is this clarified perception that paves the way to the highest experience in intuition. Viveka gets merged in jnana. The intellectual knowledge of Reality is the fundamental requisite for the dissolution of thought in the intuitional wisdom of Truth. Even the mere decisive intelligent grasping of the nature of Truth changes the spirit of man’s life, and his feelings grow deeper, wider and subtler every moment. Intellect is the gateway to intuition. Reason is necessary to justify faith in Truth. Metaphysical acumen is the foundation on which is built the edifice of transcendental Experience of the Absolute. The true philosopher is not a creature of his intellect, but a sage in the making. His method may be classified under three heads in the order of succession, the fourth state being the ultimate realisation itself:
1. Integral Understanding of the Nature of Reality;
2. Repeated assertion of the Integral Understanding;
3. Progressive dissolution of the Integral Thought in Integral Consciousness;
4. Absolute Experience which transcends all relations.