Q.402 – Witness vs jIva

Q: Please correct my logic below:

  • The ‘negating’ (neti, neti) is actually done by the not-Self (intellect, jIva).
  • The things negated are not-Self (body, senses, mind/intellect, jIva itself?)
  • The witness cannot be negated because it precedes the objects of negation and the act of negation.
  • The witness itself cannot negate but it is because of it that misidentification and negation are possible.
  • The knowledge that ‘I am That which cannot be negated’ is in the intellect, which is not-Self, and therefore unreal.
  • Once that knowledge takes place, then there is no further thoughts such as ‘I am an individual, so and so, this/that’. And I know that I never was.
  • Although the knowledge is in the intellect, it is as if the Self regains knowledge of itself. This individual ‘being’ just became sentient due to my reflection in it?
  • It is ‘me’ that is reflected in all apparent individuals?

A (Dennis): That is mostly correct. Just a couple of points. The ‘witness’ also has to be negated intellectually, since the act of witnessing has to take place through the body-mind-intellect, which is not who you really are. And the Self-knowledge also takes place in the intellect – it is the jIva who gains Self-knowledge. ‘Self-knowledge’ doesn’t apply to the Self, which is never anything other than the Self. And it does not ‘know’ this in the sense that this word implies – to ‘know’ something requires seeming duality and an intellect.

Tattvabodha – Part 19

Part 19 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 19 looks at the traditional description of the formation of the mental aspects from the sattvika qualities of the five elements and the formation of the organs of action from the rajasika aspects.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

The Mystery – Part 5

Continuing this new, short series presenting the booklet by Bimal Prasad, in which he answers some ‘Rarely Asked Questions’ on Life. Primarily from the perspective of Advaita, questions addressed include the nature of happiness, consciousness, mind and ego. There is also practical guidance on meditation in the final chapter. Answers are relevant and succinct, so that many of the issues of interest to the seeker are covered.

This fifth part looks at how we can be ‘in the present’ and at how the mind functions. See the Contents List or go straight to Part 5 of the series.

The complete (electronic form) booklet may also be purchased from Amazon.

Sharp vs. Subtle Intellect

A suggestion has been made elsewhere in these columns that “Vedanta differentiates between what is called ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).”

Experienced Vedantins may differentiate ‘sharp intellect’ from ‘subtle intellect’ in trying to make a point in order to explain contextually some specific concept they would like to amplify on.  But it is doubtful if Advaita Vedanta itself has  anywhere  highlighted the difference between ” ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).” If we ask whether there is a vedAnta vAkya or shruti mantra to support a claim of difference between the two types of buddhi, the answer is perhaps a resounding “No.”

Vedanta does, of course, contrast ‘sUkshma‘ in relation to ‘sthUla‘ form of  many entities (e.g. sharIra, buddhi, loka-s). Bhagavad-Gita too talks of a stratified order from gross to finer when referring to objects to sensory organs to mind to buddhi &c.


There is also an idea promoted in some quarters that  ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) is useful more often in Science whereas ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi) is utilized in Vedantic study. The reason given is that “The former is the analytical mind characteristic of the scientist [whereas] the latter [i.e.] the ability to integrate rather than divide [is the requirement of Vedanta], to see the unity in diversity.” Continue reading

Understanding the Mind

A mind is the complex of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement — a characteristic of human beings, but which also may apply to other life forms. (Wikipedia)

(in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.: the processes of the human mind. 2. Psychology. the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities. 3. intellect or understanding, as distinguished from the faculties of feeling and willing; intelligence. (Dictionary.com)

It is generally agreed that mind is that which enables a being to have subjective awareness and intentionality towards their environment, to perceive and respond to stimuli with some kind of agency, and to have a consciousness, including thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)


Advaita vedanta is frequently criticized by Western advaitins for its intellectual approach. Many things can be said about this but I would like to clarify here what Advaita Vedanta means by mind.

In the West quite a number of functions are subsumed under this one term ‘mind’. From the point of view of vedanta the above definitions are a bit of a mumbo jumbo. Two flaws in particular need to be pointed out. The first is to do with the use of the word ’consciousness’. Whereas Wikipedia says mind enables consciousness, vedanta states the opposite: consciousness enables mind. The other flaw is that there is no differentiation between all the various functions listed: ‘thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement ‘.

I would like to take up this latter point here. Continue reading