In the previous blog we saw that there are two ways of perceiving an object like the example of the table. “ I see it and therefore the table exists” and “the table exists and therefore I see it”. According to Adi Sankaracharya’ Advaita philosophy, knowledge of the world is knowledge of the thoughts of the objects of the world, or viṣayākāravṛittijñana. When knowledge is thus based on the modification of the mind, the objects will definitely be external to you. The knowledge of the world, being viṣayākāra vṛitti, is therefore obtained through the senses. Therefore He also advocates that yad-dṛśyam tat naśyam—that which is perceivable is perishable. I was reminded by my “Twitter Friends” of a wonderful Tamil proverbs that reflect this: விண்டவர் கண்டிலார்….கண்டவர் விண்டிலார்; கண்ணால் காண்பதும் பொய் காதால் கேட்பதும் பொய் தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்
Nevertheless we also understood that we need both “Existence” and “Light” for our knowledge of the objects and hence the world.
From the scientific perspective, we know that light is an energy radiation. No single answer to the question “What is light?” satisfies the many contexts in which light is experienced, explored, and exploited. The physicist is interested in the physical properties of light, the artist in an aesthetic appreciation of the visual world. Through the sense of sight, light is a primary tool for perceiving the world and communicating within it. Light from the Sun warms the Earth, drives global weather patterns, and initiates the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis. On the grandest scale, light’s interactions with matter have helped shape the structure of the Universe.
Vedantic Treatise on Light
Imagine a situation where you are just entering a room and the light goes off. Do you need light to identify the objects in the room? Yes, surely. Remember you are an object too. Do you need light to identify yourselves? No. Why?
When we discuss this topic, one important Eka Sloki (Single Sloka) of Adi Śankarā is to be understood. Adi Śankarā answers these two questions by a single sloka. The Sloka is presented as a dialogue between a teacher (Guru) and student (Sishya), in response to a question by the student on realization of self. The Sloka, its Tamil & English Translations are given below:
Guru: How do you see (What is that light/power which helps you see?) Sishya: I see with the help of sunlight
Guru: How do you see in the night? Sishya: I see with the help of a lamp
Guru: Let that be so. How do you see the light? Sishya: With my eyes.
Guru: How do you see when tour eyes are closed ? Sishya: It is with my intellect
Guru: What helps you see (know) that intellect? Sishya: This is me (me as pure consciousness)
Guru: (Indeed) You are that supreme light Sishya: I realize that I am (immediate experience for the disciple)
So, the following facts about the “Light” have to be understood:
1. “Light” is not a part, product or property of the object
2. “Light” is formless
3. “Light” is independent, enlivens the object and makes it sentient.
4. “Light” is beyond the object and is “Sarvaghataha”.
5. “Light” will be there even after the object is destroyed. Once object goes, “Light” is not recognizable as the recognizing medium is gone
Light is Cit, the Chaitanyam
Let us go back to the previous blog where we saw that an object in the ultimate analysis of matter, either through the inward looking Vedantic route or through the outward looking scientific route (as explained in the blogs that covered Sloka 2 on Creation) is nothing but emptiness which takes the shape of vibrations and comes into existence. If this vibration is not known then we will not know that it “is”. So there is also this knowing. To visualise this knowing we add a spatial reference to it. If we further contemplate on this existence of this vibration suspended as it were in the “knowing” spatial field, we learn that this spatial knowing field is also empty of objects. This is the second kind of emptiness: the emptiness of pure consciousness. This emptiness is “cit” चित् (chaitanyam) is pure (independent from body & mind) and is the Jivātma, the Self-awareness त्वम् (Tvam) and at the worldly level is known as visibility (bhaati भाति)
We saw “sat” Existence earlier. We now saw “cit” Light. In either of these two studies, there is a basic question that is not addressed yet and needs to be looked into. That question is “How have existence and light come to be conjoined with all existing things?”.
The answer to this question will come up in the next blog.