We next take up the point as to the self-luminousness of consciousness (above, p. 33). The contention that consciousness is not an object holds good for the knowing Self at the
time when it illumines (i.e. constitutes as its objects) other things; but there is no absolute rule as to all consciousness never being anything but self-luminous. For common observation shows that the consciousness of one person may become the object of the cognition of another, viz. of an inference founded on the person's friendly or unfriendly appearance and the like, and again that a person's own past states of consciousness become the object of his own cognition--as appears from judgments such as 'At one time I knew.' It cannot therefore be said 'If it is consciousness it is self-proved' (above p. 33), nor that consciousness if becoming an object of consciousness would no longer be consciousness; for from this it would follow that one's own past states, and the conscious states of others--because being objects of consciousness--are not themselves consciousness. Moreover, unless it were admitted that there is inferential knowledge of the thoughts of others, there would be no apprehension of the connexion of words and meaning, and this would imply the absolute termination of all human intercourse depending on speech. Nor also would it be possible for pupils to attach themselves to a teacher of sacred lore, for the reason that they had become aware of his wisdom and learning. The general proposition that consciousness does not admit of being an object is in fact quite untenable. The essential 'nature of consciousness or knowledge--consists therein that it shines forth, or manifests itself, through its own being to its own substrate at the present moment; or (to give another definition) that it is instrumental in proving its own object by its own being 1
Now these two characteristics are established by a person's own state of consciousness and do not vanish when that consciousness becomes the object of another state of consciousness; consciousness remains also in the latter case what it is. Jars and similar things, on the other hand, do not possess consciousness, not because they are objects of consciousness but because they lack the two characteristics stated above. If we made the presence of consciousness dependent on the absence of its being an object of consciousness, we should arrive at the conclusion
that consciousness is not consciousness; for there are things--e.g. sky-flowers--which are not objects of consciousness and at the same time are not consciousness. You will perhaps reply to this that a sky-flower's not being consciousness is due not to its not being an object of consciousness, but to its non-existence!--Well then, we rejoin, let us say analogously that the reason of jars and the like not being contradictory to Nescience (i.e. of their being gada), is their not being of the nature of consciousness, and let us not have recourse to their being objects of consciousness!--But if consciousness is an object of consciousness, we conclude that it also is non-contradictory of Nescience, like a jar!--At this conclusion, we rejoin, you may arrive even on the opposite assumption, reasoning as follows: 'Consciousness is non-contradictory of Nescience, because it is not an object of consciousness, like a sky-flower! All which shows that to maintain as a general principle that something which is an object of consciousness cannot itself be consciousness is simply ridiculous.'
48:1 The comment of the Sru. Pra. on the above definitions runs, with a few additional explanations, as follows: The term 'anubhûti' here denotes knowledge in general, not only such knowledge as is not remembrance (which limited meaning the term has sometimes). With reference to the 'shining forth' it might be said that in this way jars also and similar things know or are conscious because they also shine forth' (viz. in so far as they are known); to exclude jars and the like the text therefore adds 'to its own substrate' (the jar 'shines forth,' not to itself, but to the p. 49 knowing person). There are other attributes of the Self, such as atomic extension, eternity, and so on, which are revealed (not through themselves) but through an act of knowledge different from them; to exclude those the text adds 'through its own being.' In order to exclude past states of consciousness or acts of knowledge, the text adds 'at the present moment.' A past state of consciousness is indeed not revealed without another act of knowledge (representing it), and would thus by itself be excluded; but the text adds this specification (viz. 'at the present moment') on purpose, in order to intimate that a past state of consciousness can be represented by another state--a point denied by the opponent. 'At the present moment' means 'the connexion with the object of knowledge belonging to the present time.' Without the addition of 'to its own substrate' the definition might imply that a state of consciousness is manifest to another person also; to exclude this the clause is added. This first definition might be objected to as acceptable only to those who maintain the svayamprakâsatva-theory (which need not be discussed here); hence a second definition is given.The two clauses 'to its own substrate' and 'at the present moment' have to be supplied in this second definition also. 'Instrumental in bringing about' would apply to staffs, wheels, and such like implements also; hence the text adds 'its own object.' (Staffs, wheels, &c. have no 'objects.') Knowledge depending on sight does not bring about an object depending on hearing; to exclude this notion of universal instrumentality the text specifies the object by the words 'its own.' The clause 'through its own being' excludes the sense organs, which reveal objects not by their own being, but in so far as they give rise to knowledge. The two clauses 'at the present moment' and 'to its own substrate' have the same office in the second definition as in the first.