Look at the image above.
1. What is that ? That is a table. That table exists in that room.
2. How do we know that ? We know because we EXPERIENCE the table. Please note that a non existent table cannot be experienced by us. So the “IS” statement about the table is endowed with Existence which is proved by our experience.
3. How do we experience the table? By seeing.
4. How do we see ? We see through our eyes.
5. What happens when you see? Here are two possible explanations:
1. There exists a table and there is light available for us to see the table. The light is the manifest and the table is the manifesting medium for the light. Note that when the manifest, the light is removed, the table does not appear to exist. When we remove the table, the surviving light is not re-cognised, not because of its absence, but because of the lack of a manifesting medium. So, for an object to manifest, we need two basic inputs. The existence and light. when light rays fall on retina, light rays are carried via optical fibres and the image is projected on cerebral cortex. An inverted image is formed; this can be termed as sensation. Brain then tries to understand the image with the information it already has and tries to interpret the image by giving a meaningful suggestion. Here the suggestion given is ‘this is a table’. So, a sensation and a meaningful suggestion (together called as perception) defines that object called Table. This is one perspective.
2. Our shāshtra-s explain this in a slightly different way. Our shāshtras say, that mind travels through senses up to the object, touches it, feels it and then gives meaningful suggestion. The explanation is based on mental level.With this in mind, when mind senses anything via five senses, it immediately tries to find a meaningful explanation and tries to arrive at conclusion. When the object is not clearly perceived or seen, mind tries to correlate it with the nearest object that is stored in mind. Mind keeps imagining until it reaches an acceptable conclusion. It superimposes the nearest image on the unclear object. This is the second perspective.
Whichever perspective is followed, one thing is very clear and common to both viz., we need light and an existence to categorically say that an object exists.
Let us understand Existence first
Features of Existence
Existence is a mystery for philosophers; And vedāntaḥ has got a unique perception regarding the nature of existence.
Adi Sankara makes it clear that Existence of a sentient object (table in our example, a pot, a rope or the World) is nijaanthargatham. Remember the first Sloka (Viswam Darpana …). It has its being only in this atman alone. So when you see an object, the object consciousness is atma. An object (pot, chair, world etc) cannot reveal itself to me unless the object consciousness is present. So when I say table , it means the table consciousness is. This ISness is the satta, the sat Atma. The true Atma. This “IS” is different from the normal “is” which we always associate with time. When we say an object exists, the existence in our buddhi is in respect of time. Whereas in the case of ISness, the Consciousness IS (consciousness Existence) is fixed and objects are the variables (pot, chair, world etc). These variables does not exist in the absence of my consciousness Existence.
This consciousness Existence is presented by vedāntaḥ with features, which are exactly like the description of consciousness. Let us see them now:
1. An object exists because I experience its Existence. Hence Existence is not a part, a product or property of the world of objects. When I say the table is, the “IS”ness is not the property of the table. IS not part of the table. It is not even a product of the table. But it is something experienced by me; because I say it IS the table.
2. Existence is an independent reality. Existence pervades and makes every object existent.
3. Existence is not limited by the boundaries of the object. When you say table IS, vedāntaḥ says ISness is not only in the table, it extends beyond the table. It is all pervading sarvagatam; this is the third.
4. Existence exists even after the destruction of the objects which it enlivens; Which means what? ISness will continue to exist, even after the Table is destroyed. Table goes. ISness of the Table does not go. Existence is eternal nityam.
Existence is Sat ; Existence is Tat
Therefore, “IS”ness is not a property of any one particular object; all objects share this in common. It has no objective definable qualities. This is the first kind of emptiness as we meditate on isness. This emptiness takes the shape of vibrations and comes as “existence” within the time and space domain. Contemporary physics confirms this if you look into the nature of matter i.e., when we explore matter right upto sub atomic particles and below, right to the end (remember the introduction to the second Sloka where we started with the God Particle experiment).
Now the question is: how can I appreciate the pure existence and consciousness without association with any object or body ? I am able to appreciate them along with object and body. I am able to appreciate existence with object; I am able to appreciate
consciousness with body. Once the object is removed, and the body is removed; pure formless existence consciousness survives, the sāstras say. How can I appreciate that pure existence consciousness?
The sāstra says: you will never be able to appreciate the existence-consciousness. Once you remove the world and body, you will never be able to appreciate, because your appreciation is invariably along with an object or body. Pure thing; you can never appreciate; You know what is the reason; the Upanisad says, it is because you yourselves are that pure existence-consciousness, it being the very subject itself, it is never available for objectification.
In vedantic parlance this is called “sat” – the self Existence feature of Paramatma (Brahman) or तत् (Tat) and at the worldy level is known as “asti” अस्ति – Existence.
This sustaining factor of cognition, the Satta, the ISness, that satta is responsible for everything that exists in space and time. Therefore the senses and the cognition and the objects of cognition all of them have their being in Consciousness which is self existent. Why is it self existent? Consciousness is self revealing and therefore self evident and what is self evident means self existent; means that it IS. Consciousness is self revealing or the revealer. Like sun is the revealer for objects. It does not do any action to reveal. Its by nature a revealer. It reamins revealing all the time.
This leads us to the second vital link – the revealing aspect – The light.
In a lighter vein “We will not take the Light lightly”. We will throw more light on this “Light” in our next blog.