Mandukya Upanishad, Class 61


In the five verses 24 to 28, Gowdapadha Chariya is refuting Buddhist system of philosophy.  The four systems are:

  1. Sowthranthika madham:  This philosopher says that there is an external world different from the observer, the subject.  The external world is different from the observer and is real; this real distinct external world is proved by prathyaksha pramanam; therefore, this philosophy presented in a nutshell as bahya prathyaksha vadhinaha
  2. Vaibashika madham:  Close to first one and they also say there is an external world; it exists separate from the observer; the external world is real; This distinct real external world is proved by inference or reasoning. bahyana anumana vadhinaha
  3. Yogachara madham:  There is no independent real external world at all separate from the subject.  Just there is no real dream world, separate from the observer, individual.  This philosopher can be defined as Bahyartha abava vadhinaha.  External is only an appearance
  4. Madhyamika madham:  This is similar to the third one; they also so there is no external at all; There is no subject observer also.  Sarvartha abava vadhinaha.  Soonya vadhinaha.

The first two systems are refuted by the third system.  The first two systems claim there is a real external world whereas the third system says there is no external world separate from consciousness.  This is close to advaidam, in establishing mithyatvam of the world, and therefore Gowdapadha chariya joined this system to refute the first two system. The first two systems quote the experiences as proof for the existence of an external world.  This was refuted in verses 26 to 29 by saying that experience does not prove reality.  The best example being the dream.  In dream we have clear experiences with corresponding external objects.  During the dream we are very sure of experiences and corresponding objects, but when we wake up, we find out there is no external objects at all separate from the dreamer.  Similarly, there is no external world separate from the observer.  When we look at the pot, we see a pot with weight etc.  But up on inquiry you find out there is no substance called pot, the weight, attributes etc. belong to clay.  When you are touching a pot, you really are touching clay.  Because of lack of inquiry it appears as a substance.  Similarly, the whole world looks real.  In the first stage, we dismiss the object and retain the word.  Once you dismiss the object, the word should also be dismissed.  Because without an object there is no validity for the word.  All the padham and padhartham are resolved into the the ahdishtanam, the chaithanyam.  Similar to akaram, ukaram, and makaram getting resolved in silence.

Then how will you explain the erroneous perception.  If you are talking about error, there should be a right perception.  If you want to talk about wrong perception, there should be a correct perception.  If there is a correct perception, then there must be an external object.  Without an external object, the concept of error can’t be there at all.  There is no right perception at all because there is no world for perception at all.

Verse 28

First, we will take the second part.  Because of the reasons given in the previous three verses, the external world is not at all born and therefore there is no such thing called external world or an object of an external experience.  If it is unreal world, why does it feel real?  Feeling is not a valid knowledge – you may feel like a prime minister, but you are not.  In dream, you feel the dream world is real, but it is not.

The first part of the sentence is addressing yogachara.  Common features for both are that there is no object separate from consciousness.  The difference is in arriving at the nature of consciousness.  The yogachara philosopher says consciousness is a fleeting, flickering, temporary, momentary entity.  Therefore, the meaning of the word I, the subject is this temporary consciousness.  How am I momentary entity?  I have been continually existing for my life.  Yogachara will say that you are not one momentary consciousness but many momentary consciousness.  Momentary consciousness are constantly replaced by another momentary consciousness.  Because of the continuous flow, it looks as though there is a permanent atma.  There is no permanent atma, but only a flow of temporary series of atma.  He gives two examples:

  1. Perennial river:  If you look at Ganges, there is no permanent Ganges because the river is in constant flow.  You feel that the Ganges you saw last year is same the Ganges this year.  The water of Ganges you touch this moment is not the same water for the next moment.  Ganges is only a flow of temporary flow of water.  Similarly, atma.  There is no permanent consciousness at all.
  2. Flame:  You feel that there is a permanent flame, but on inquiry you will find that the same flame does not continually exists.  If the flame exists permanently, the oil will be there permanent, but oil is getting depleted.  The flame is constantly getting renewed by oil.  The flame of first moment and flame of the second moment are not the same; they are only similar.

Permanent river and flame are brama; Yogachara bowdha says the permanent consciousness and chaithanyam are brama.  Chaithanyam is born, gone, born, gone; there is a constant flow of chaithanyam.  Gowdapadha refutes this philosophy in three words.  Consciousness is not born at all, it is eternal; you can’t talk about temporary consciousness.  Sankarachariya elaborately argues for this concept:

Sankarachariya asks the question, if you are talking about the flow of fleeting consciousness and according to you this is atma.  Consciousness number 1 appears and disappears; then Consciousness 2 comes and disappears; then 3 comes and disappears and so on.  Who is talking about this arrival and departure?  Is it the first one or second one or third one?  Number 1 can never talk about the arrival of number 2.   Because when number 1 is there number 2 is not there.  Similarly, number 2 cannot talk about number 1 or number 3.  Therefore, no single member can talk about the flow of chanika vigyanam, If somebody has to talk about arrival and departure, there must be somebody other than the flow who is there permanently.  So, the one who talks about, who is the witness of, who is aware of arrival and departure must not arrive and depart.  Yogchara committed the mistake of taking consciousness as the thoughts of mind.  These arriving and departing thoughts are witnessed by this nithya chaithanyam and this nithya chaithanyam does not come and go.  Anithya vigyanam is the reality for yogachara.  Nithhya vigyanam is the reality for us.  Thoughts arrive and depart, what is permanent is I the witness principle.  They are seeing the footprints of flying birds in the sky; they are seeing something that is not there; they are seeing the origination of consciousness; this is a wrong perception.

The fourth madhyamika says that there is nothing in creation (soonyavadha); this means you are not there which means your philosophy is not there also.

Verse 29

For the sake of refutation, we discussed all other systems.  From verse 29 to 46, Gowdapadha summarizes the vedanta chidhantha; Consciousness alone is real and eternal; the world obtained in jagradha avastha and swapna avastha are both mithya; I am not matter but that eternal consciousness in which the mithya matter appears and disappears.  Mithya includes body matter, mind matter and world matter.  Consciousness does not produce a real world.  Other system claim that eternal Brahman produce the external world.  that assume the Brahman is subject to change.  To be a karanam or a cause it should be subject to change – savikaram.  The truth is Brahman is changeless; therefore, it is not a kranam at all and can’t produce any real creation.  that is the very nature of Brahman.  Changelessness is the very nature of Brahman.   This changeless nature of Brahman will ever be the same.  World was not born; world is not born; world will not be born; What was, what is and will be is all Brahman.  This nature of Brahman will never change.  If you accept that a world is born out of Brahman, you will never get out of samsara.  Acceptance of real world is invitation for permanent bondage; therefore, you should not accept it if you want moksha.