A Vedantic Theorem

Theorem:  I am  awareness.  Proof: In plane geometry there are a few axioms, e. g., a point has no dimensions; a straight line has no width and is infinite. They are axioms because they are obvious and taken as proved. The axioms are necessary to prove geometrical theorems. In the same manner, there are three axioms, namely, (1) I am different from what I am or can be aware of, (2) I can be aware of what I am not, and (3) awareness is different from object of awareness.They are obvious and do not need any proof. Call them vedantic axioms in the present context. Now let us try to find out the things which I am aware of. It is simple to accept that I am aware of objects in the world outside. For example, I am aware of tree and building. Therefore I am not the tree or the building. What about my body? It is also true the I am aware of different parts of the body and the complete body. I am aware of eyes, ears, etc. Thus I am not the  body including the sense organs. What about the mind? Mind in simple terms is where thoughts  arise or which gives rise to them. Thoughts are in the form of ideas, emotions, memory, feeling, etc. My experience is that I am aware of my thoughts. It would follow that I am not the mind. To understand this fact is a crucial step.I am aware of all the worldly objects including my mind and body. Therefore, I am different from them by application of axiom (1).  After excluding/ negating the worldly objects, the mind and the body, two entities are left, namely, I (negator) and  awareness. It is another important step. As this awareness is without any object, it is  pure awareness. Now analyse the validity of statement, ‘I am aware of awareness’. It is not valid because vide axiom (3) it would mean that awareness is different from awareness, an absurdity. Thus I cannot be aware of awareness. By virtue of axiom (2) it leads to the conclusion that I am not different from awareness. In other words, I am awareness.

6 thoughts on “A Vedantic Theorem

  1. Dear Bimal,

    A very neat and, on the face of it, convincing summary!

    But I am always suspicious of attempts to ‘prove’ Advaita. It implies that ‘logic’ is effectively a pramANa for Self-knowledge. And this would contradict the assertion that shabda is the only pramANa. Shruti is the only source that tells us that ‘I am Brahman’.

    What happens to the ‘objects’ in the progression you have outlined? Are we not left with duality?

    Your first axiom is not actually true, is it? I am not, in fact, different from what I am aware of. I am Brahman and the objects are name and form of Brahman.

    I would be interested to see how you can incorporate such ‘Advaitic truths’ into the proof. It is certainly an interesting approach. Sorry to challenge it in this way – it seems to be my typical frame of mind while writing these ‘Confusions’ books!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  2. Howdy Bimal,

    I enjoyed reading your ‘theorem’. Dennis rightly observes that attempts to ‘prove’ Advaita imply that logic or reasoning is an independent pramana for self-knowledge. Dennis is suspicious of such attempts whereas Shankara clearly rejects claims that the use of reasoning is an independent means of demonstrating or validating such Vedic truths as the existence of the self, etc. and he criticizes and attacks the “reasoners” (tarkika). Human reasoning as such is said to be groundless, restless and helpless without the light and guidance of the Vedas. (BSBh II, 1, 11)

    Shankara is tireless in criticizing and denouncing the independent, unrestrained use of reason and argumentation and the attempts to gain an extra-Vedic, worldly access to that supreme truth and reality which only the Vedas can reveal. Unguided reasoning he says is “dried up” (suska), i.e., fruitless and groundless (BSBh II, 1, 6). Ultimate truth is not accessible to “mere tarka” or “mere reasonings” (BSBh II, 1,11; II, 2, 6). Without the authority of the sacred tradition, the tarkika entangles himself in the figments of his own mind (Katha-Upanishad Bhashya I, 2, 9). Mere argumentation inevitably leads to conflicting statements and viewpoints, to confusion and frustration, specifically insofar as the crucial theme of the self (atman) is concerned (BUBh I, 4, 6). Reasoning, worldly inference alone, is never definitive, has no final basis and conclusion (Katha-Upanishad Bhashya I, 2, 8 ). It is the very essence of human reason to refute itself, to supersede itself, to be unstable and unfounded (BSBh ll, 1, 11). In this same section of his Brahmasutrabhashya, Shankara refers to and dismisses a purvapakhsa view according to which the very insight into the “instability” (apratisthi-tatva) of reason should be seen as an achievement of reason and this “instability” itself should be recognized as a positive distinction (alamkara) of reason, insofar as it implies openness for correction and improvement.

    Cheers

    • ” In this same section of his Brahmasutrabhashya, Shankara refers to and dismisses a purvapakhsa view according to which the very insight into the “instability” (apratisthi-tatva) of reason should be seen as an achievement of reason and this “instability” itself should be recognized as a positive distinction (alamkara) of reason, insofar as it implies openness for correction and improvement.”

      My God !!!
      I mean, My Godel !!!
      All is lost, Good bye.

  3. Undoubtedly, shrutis are pramAnas and reasoning is not a pramAna. However, reasoning and experience have supportive roles in the triad shruti, yukti and anubhav. Shrutis are to be explained with the help of reasoning. Otherwise, Vedantic teaching is likely to become a belief system that it is not. That Brahmasutra is nyay-prasthAna underlines the importance of reasoning. Intellect is the locus of reasoning. Kathopanishad (1.2.12) says: As AtmA is hidden in all beings, it is not evident. It is seen by those having subtle vision with a sharp intellect. ‘I am awareness’ says the shruti. It has to be explained and inquired into by intellect for the requisite vrittis to arise in the intellect. I have tried to explain the shruti by reasoning. The reasoning is not foreign to Vedanta. It is similar to the method of seer-seen discrimination.

    Dennis’s comments are in three parts.

    1 What happens to the ‘objects’ in the progression you have outlined? Are we not left with duality?
    Answer: There are two entities: I(awareness) and non-I, the objects. It is an interim stage, i.e., duality. In the final stage, non-I is mithya leaving I alone. It is beyond the scope of the ‘theorem’ and ‘proof’.
    2 Your first axiom is not actually true, is it? I am not, in fact, different from what I am aware of. I am Brahman and the objects are name and form of Brahman.
    Ans: Above is from parmArtha standpoint, i.e., how a jnAni sees. Axiom (1) is at vyavahAric level and it addresses a seeker, not a jnAni
    3 I would be interested to see how you can incorporate such ‘Advaitic truths’ into the proof
    Ans: As stated in the answer to 1 above, in the final stage, I alone am. This stage is beyond the scope of the ‘theorem’ and the ‘proof’ because the underlying principle of the ‘proof’ is seer-seen discrimination. For the final stage much more is required.
    Bimal

  4. Well reasoned, Bimal. Actually, I think that your post should combine with my subsequent Q&A on ‘negating the negator’. I think that what your axiomatic ‘proof’ actually ends up with is ‘I am the witness’. The final step is then not so much a matter of reasoning but of insight, based upon what you gain from shabda pramANa. ALL of this is at the vyAvhArika level. The ‘paramArtha standpoint’ is still an intellectual exercise in vyavahAra.

    Dennis

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