Consciousness in Advaita Vedanta by William M. Indich

By William M. Indich

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Brahman is intelligence. "3 And 1. B. , Cf. 23-4. Ait. Up. 3. Cf. Baldev Raj Sharma, The Concept of Alman in the Principal Upani�ads, pp. 7-8 for a discussion of the debate regarding the date of this Upani�ad. 3. Brhad. B. 1 1 . 2. AN ANALYSIS OF ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS 27 again, the analysis which distinguishes three states of experience in the MiifJ¢ukya Upani�ad concludes that intelligence or knowl­ edge is the essential nature of the substance which persists through and witnesses these different conditions.!

B. 40. 2. B. 40. 3. B. 1 . 4. 34 . , to the primacy of the subject or consciousness in experience, and particularly in the meditative states cultivated by the Vijfiiinaviidins. This vision, elaborated in the context of the Buddhist tradition and therefore having to accommodate the Buddha's marks of existence, particularly impermanence (anitya) and no-Self (aniitman), resulted in the Vijfiiinaviidin denial of the reality of mental substance or a con­ tinuous self. Instead, these thinkers posited the existence of an infinite number of individual streams or series (sarhtiina) of ideas.

The Atman therefore is eternally conscious of itself.! However, it is apparent that even the metaphor of light for consciousness breaks down in the face of the Advaitic claim that ultimately, there is nothing other than transcendental and un­ differentiated awareness of Self. This point is brought home in the context of 8 ailkara's criticisms of the Vijiianavada theory of self-luminous consciousness, which portrayed consciousness as a lamp that lights its objects and itself at the same time. 3 In this sense, the " self-luminosity" of absolute consciousness is unique because the consciousness illuminated is identical with, and never an object of, intelligence, while all other entities and non-entities are objectifiable, and therefore distinct from consciousness itself.

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