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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

The illusory creations were there


Now

though all things are but illusory impositions on consciousness yet for the illumination of specific objects it is admitted even by Vedanta that this can only take place through specific sense-contact and particular mental states (_v@rtti_) or modes; but if that be so why not rather admit that this can take place even on the assumption of the absolute reality of the manifold external world without? The answer that the Vedanta gives to such a question is this, that the phenomenon of illumination has not to undergo any gradual process, for it is the work of one

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flash like the work of the light of a lamp in removing darkness; so it is not possible that the external reality should have to pass through any process before consciousness could arise; what happens is simply this, that the reality (_sat_) which subsists in all things as the same identical one reveals the object as soon as its veil is removed by association with the v@rtti (mental mould or state). It is like a light which directly and immediately illuminates everything with which it comes into relation. Such an illumination of objects by its underlying reality would have been continuous if there were no veils or covers, but that is not so as the reality is hidden by the veil of ajnana (nescience). This veil is removed as soon as the light of consciousness shines through a mental mould or v@rtti, and as soon as it is removed the thing shines forth.

Even before the formation of the v@rtti the illusory impositions on the reality had still been continuing objectively, but it could not be revealed as it was hidden by ajnana which is removed by the action of the corresponding v@rtti; and as soon as the veil is removed the thing shines forth in its true light. The action of the senses, eye, etc. serves but to modify the v@rtti of the mind, and the v@rtti of the mind once formed, the corresponding ajnana veil which was covering the corresponding specific part of the world-appearance is removed, and the illumination of the object which was already present, being divested of the veil, shows itself forth. The illusory creations were there, but they could not be manifested on account of the veil of nescience. As soon as the veil is removed by the action of the v@rtti the light of reality shows the corresponding illusory creations. So consciousness in itself is the ever-shining light of reality which is never generated but ever exists; errors of perception (e.g. silver in the conch-shell) take place not because the do@sa consisting of the defect of the eye, the glaze of the object and such other elements that contributed to the illusion, generated the knowledge, but because it generated a wrong v@rtti. It is because of the generation of the wrong v@rtti that the manifestation is illusory. In the illusion "this is silver" as when we mistake the conch-shell for the silver, it is the _cit,_ consciousness or reality as underlying the object represented to us by "this" or "_idam_" that is the basis (_adhi@s@thana_) of the illusion of silver. The cause of error is our nescience or non-cognition (_ajnana_) of it in the form of the conch-shell, whereas the right knowledge is the cognition of it as conch-shell. The

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basis is not in the content of my knowledge as manifested in my mental state (_v@rtti_), so that the illusion is not of the form that the "knowledge is silver" but of "this is silver."


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