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"has Concept of
Unchanging Cognition (nityaj!na):
Influence from Buddhism, S#khya and Vednta

My book,
in the course oI translating and expounding Bha!!a Rma-
ka"!ha`s (9501000 AD) arguments Ior the existence oI a SelI, ex-
amined some oI Rmaka"!ha`s presuppositions and assertions not
merely synchronically but also diachronically; that is to say not
only by explaining them and their role in Rmaka"!ha`s system, but
also by looking Ior antecedents in the works oI earlier Indian
thinkers, thereby tracing their history. But this diachronic task was
hardly begun with regard to a central Ieature oI his arguments Ior
the existence oI the SelI, namely its identity with cognition (f!na).
Rmaka"!ha`s concept oI cognition as something stable and un-
changing is unusual and I hope, in this paper, to make it more un-
derstandable by providing a context Ior it in the Iorm oI earlier ex-
amples oI it or oI close approximations to it. To collect and discuss
all earlier examples would be too big a task to tackle exhaustively
in a paper such as this, Ior there is a large amount oI material that is

I would like to thank Jrgen Hanneder, Harunaga Isaacson, Kei Kataoka and
Birgit Kellner Ior reading an earlier draIt oI this paper and sending me extremely
helpIul comments and corrections.
Watson 2006.
relevant. The Iollowing passages in aiva texts that predate Rma-
ka"!ha contain stances that resemble his equating oI SelI and cog-
nition: by Nrya"aka"!ha, his Iather, Mgendravtti (MV) ad
2.25ab and 6.4ab; by Sadyojyotis, one oI the two Iounding Iathers
oI his Saiddhntika tradition oI exegesis, Sv!vambhuvastrasa!"
grahavtti (SSS) ad 2.4, Tattvasa!graha (TS |AP|) 14, Narevara-
park#! 1.63ab65 and Bhogak!rik! (BhK) 72b73a; in Saiddhnti-
ka scriptures, Par!khvatantra (PT) 2.70cd and 14.6468ab,
Mata!gap!ramevaratantra, vidv!p!da 6.23ab and Mgendra-
tantra (MT), vidv!p!da 2.5ab and 6.7; and in scriptures and trea-
tises belonging to the non-dualistic aiva traditions, Netratantra
(NT) 8.28, ivastra (S) 1.1 and varapratvabhif!k!rik! (PK)
1.5.12 and 1.7.1. The non-aiva traditions that are most relevant
are Dharmakrtian Buddhism, S#khya and Vednta. This paper,
owing to restrictions oI length, will be entirely taken up with Rma-
ka"!ha`s relation to these three traditions; earlier progressions oI
ideas within aivism that can be seen to go some way towards
Rmaka"!ha`s will not be dealt with here. It is my contention that
the details oI Rmaka"!ha`s view owe more to borrowing Irom
these three traditions than to inheritance Irom earlier aivism, and
that an understanding oI Rmaka"!ha`s view is deepened more eI-
Iectively by analyzing its relation to the views oI these three tradi-
tions than to those oI earlier aivism; but a deIence oI this conten-
tion will not be carried out in this paper, requiring, as it would, a
thorough look at all oI the relevant aiva passages.
The inIluence Irom these three traditions is not always immedi-
ately obvious in the case oI Buddhism it concerns a presupposi-
tion rather than a conclusion, and in the case oI the other two tradi-
tions it concerns ideas that are only taken on partially and then
moulded to suit their new environment. This means that the task oI
this paper is a philosophical as well as a philological one. In order
to clariIy the precise relationship oI Rmaka"!ha`s view to that oI
the other tradition, both the similarities and diIIerences oI the two
views and oI their Iunction in the respective traditions must be
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 81
teased out through analysis. The paper will aim to bring the diIIer-
ences to light as much as the similarities, and thus to arrive at what
is particular to Rmaka"!ha`s view.
In no case have I Iound suIIicient overlap oI wording to point to
certain borrowing Irom a particular author belonging to one oI
these three traditions. But the study oI the philosophical arguments
oI early aiva Siddhnta,
and oI their relationship to the earlier
debates between the philosophical schools has hardly begun. So at
this stage oI our knowledge it seems to me a step Iorward just to
identiIy traditions whose ideas inIluence Rmaka"!ha, even iI he
was inIluenced by an author within that tradition other than the one
cited here.
The aims oI this paper, Iurthermore, are not just histori-
cal, but also conceptual. The point is not only to establish historical
relationships, but also, as stated above, to come to a more precise
understanding oI Rmaka"!ha`s concept by investigating in what
ways it is similar to, and in what ways distinct Irom, the concepts
oI these three traditions.

* * *

From at least three hundred years beIore Rmaka"!ha was writing,
the S#khyas and the Vaie$ikas were represented as taking op-
posed positions on the nature oI sentience (caitanva).
The S#%
khyas held it to be inextricably linked to the SelI, its very nature.
The Vaie$ikas (and Naiyyikas), by contrast, held it to be an ex-

By 'early aiva Siddhnta I mean the pan-Indian aiva Siddhnta that Ilour-
ished Irom the 7th to the 12th century beIore this tradition came to survive only
in the Tamil speaking South Irom the 12th century onwards, where it was trans-
Iormed under the inIluence oI Vednta and devotionalism (bhakti).
Indeed it may be impossible ever to trace the precise route oI these ideas
Irom author to author until they reach Rmaka"!ha; the number oI sources that
have been lost, the Iact that any number oI texts Irom the source tradition con-
tain the idea in question, and the way that authors will not necessarily have pre-
served close wording when taking an idea Irom another text may constitute too
great an obstacle.
See the quotation Irom a&kara`s Brahmastrabh!#va given on p. 89.
trinsic quality that arises contingently when several Iactors happen
to be present (the proximity oI an object, the latter`s contact with a
sense Iaculty, the latter`s contact with the internal organ and the
latter`s contact with the SelI). Thus Ior the S#khyas the SelI con-
tinues to be sentient during liberation; whereas Ior the Nyya
Vaie$ikas it does not. Rmaka"!ha opposed the NyyaVaie$ika
view, holding, like the S#khyas, that the sentience oI the SelI was
not dependent on the latter`s connection with sense Iaculties and
a body.
For him, though, the SelI is not only oI the nature oI
caitanva, but also oI the nature oI f!na. The two terms are used by
most traditions to reIer to the same thing (consciousness/cogni-
tion), but not so by the S#khyas. For them the Iormer reIers to the
SelI`s sentience, its condition oI being conscious, while the latter
reIers to cognition in the sense oI mental or perceptual action,
which they attributed not to the SelI but to the Buddhi. Thus the
Iact that Rmaka"!ha reIers to the nature oI the SelI not only as
caitanva but also as f!na will be shown to constitute a signiIicant
diIIerence between him and S#khya, indicating that whereas Ior
the S#khyas the SelI`s nature is a passive, inactive awareness, Ior
Rmaka"!ha it is a dynamic, constant repetition oI the action oI
illumination. Rmaka"!ha`s position thus lies even Iurther Irom the
NyyaVaie$ikas than the S#khya`s does. The extent to which
this can be regarded as due to Buddhist or Vedntin inIluence will
be examined. The Vedntins will be seen to Iall between the S#%
khyas and Rmaka"!ha on this issue.
1. !"#$%$&'$S POSITION
A passage Irom Rmaka"!ha`s Narevarapark#!prak!a (NPP)
will serve as an introduction to his view. This occurs at the begin-
ning oI his discussion with the Buddhist opponent. The Buddhist

This was also the position oI the Prbhkaras: see Nv!vamafar (NM),
Volume 2, 273275. The possible inIluence oI this group oI Mm#sakas on
Rmaka"!ha Ialls unIortunately beyond the scope oI this paper. See Watson
2006: 100103 and Watson, Iorthcoming.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 83
asserts that we do not need to postulate the existence oI an !tman,
something we cannot perceive, because a stream oI cognitions
(vif!na) and latent impressions (sa&sk!ras) can explain all oI the
things that tmavdins claim the SelI is needed to explain. Rma-
ka"!ha does not respond, initially, by giving his own view; he con-
Ironts the Buddhist with various tmavdin, but non-aiva, speak-
ers. First oI all a Naiyyika opponent puts Iorward the argument
that we Iind in the commentaries on Nv!vastra (NS) 1.1.10: Irom
the phenomenon oI desire Ior objects that have caused us pleasure
in the past we can inIer the SelI, because such desire requires a
stable cognizer capable oI awareness oI both the past pleasure and
the present seeing oI the object. II the thing that sees an object now
were not the same thing that derived pleasure Irom it in the past, as
on the Buddhist model oI a stream oI separate cognitions, why
would desire arise at all? Desire does not arise in me, aIter all,
when I encounter an object that caused someone else pleasure. The
Buddhist responds that the pleasure can lay down a latent impres-
sion oI itselI in the immediately subsequent cognition, which
passes Irom there into the next one, and so on until it surIaces as a
conscious memory when a later cognition perceives the object
again. Thus desire can be explained on the model oI a stream oI
separate cognitions which are linked only in that each one causes
the subsequent one to arise and can pass latent traces into it.
stable cognizer needs to be postulated as its enabler.
A similar pattern is Iound when a Vaie$ika opponent puts Ior-
ward the philosophy-oI-nature arguments mentioned in Jaie#ika-
stra (VS) 3.2.4, and elaborated by Praastapda in the Pad!rtha-
dharmasa&graha (PDhS), i.e., that the existence oI the SelI can be
inIerred Irom the outgoing and ingoing movements oI the breath,
the closing and opening oI the eyes, the movement oI the internal

To talk oI latent traces being 'passed Irom one cognition to another is
slightly misleading, as it implies the stability oI latent traces, when they too are
momentary according to the Buddhists. Thus it would be more accurate to say
that each cognition causes the subsequent one to arise containing copies oI the
latent impressions it had in itselI.
organ, and other such processes. The Buddhist replies that a stream
oI cognitions and latent impressions can explain all oI the phenom-
ena in question. The Vaie$ika then advances the argument that
desire and the like are qualities (gu$as) and as such require an
owner, a substrate to locate them (gu$in). The Buddhist denies that
they are qualities oI anything and argues that they are just particu-
lar kinds oI cognition, not requiring any substrate.
Next a S#khya opponent gives an argument, Iound in S!&"
khvak!rik! (SK) 17, that compounded (sa&hata) things are all Ior
the sake oI something else, that something else being the puru#a.
The Buddhist accepts that they are Ior the sake oI something else,
but names that something else as cognition (vif!na).
In all oI these exchanges Rmaka"!ha allows his Buddhist op-
ponent to win. They are debates between the Buddhist claiming
that all we need to accept is a stream oI cognitions, and tmavdin
opponents claiming that there must be a Iurther entity, a SelI over
and above cognition. When Rmaka"!ha Iinally begins to write as
the Siddhntin he agrees with the Buddhist that there is no Iurther
entity beyond cognition; but he argues that cognition just is the
SelI. Thus the debate becomes one between the position that cog-
nition is stable and the position that it is momentary. Between
Buddhism and the other tmavdin schools it was a debate about
the existence or non-existence oI an entity, the SelI. Between
Buddhism and aivism the question is rather whether cognition is
momentary or stable.
To reIer to this unchanging cognition that is the same as the
SelI, Rmaka"!ha uses such words as (vi-)f!na, anubhava, pra-
k!a, sa&vit. These all reIer to the same thing Ior Rmaka"!ha, and
they are oIten qualiIied by the adjective gr!hakarpa to show that
it is they, not some Iurther substance beyond them, that are the
perceiver (gr!haka). He seldom uses the words f!t or graht, in
which the tc suIIix may be taken to imply an agent oI cognition
separate Irom cognition. He Irequently reIers to the SelI with ex-
pressions meaning 'that whose nature is cognition (f!n!tman) or
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 85
'that which is oI the nature oI the perceiver (gr!hak!tman).
it can be seen that Rmaka"!ha`s terminology reIlects his view oI
the non-diIIerence oI SelI and cognition.
The view that cognition is unchanging is at odds with that oI
most oI the other traditions oI Indian philosophy: it was not only
Buddhists that held it to be changing, but also their tmavdin
opponents such as Naiyyikas, Vaie$ikas and Mm#sakas (both
kaum!rila- and pr!bh!kara-). It also runs somewhat counter to
Sanskrit usage in that (vi-)f!na is an action noun, so does not
seem likely to denote something unchanging. The opponents oI the
view, moreover, were easily able to point to distinct, non-eternal
instances oI cognition: a memory, a sensation in my Ioot, percep-
tion oI blue etc.
How Rmaka"!ha attempts to overcome these objections and to
make such a view plausible will emerge in the course oI the paper.
Here it will just be said that related to these radically diIIerent
claims about f!na that it is eternal and that it is changing in
every moment are the diIIerent philosophical positions regarding
the nature oI sentience. On one side were those such as Rma-
ka"!ha and the S#khyas who regarded it as the permanent condi-
tion oI a SelI or soul; on the other were those who regarded it as
constituted by transitory cognitive events. Among the latter were
the Naiyyikas (and Vaie$ikas) Ior whom these cognitive events
inhere in an unchanging SelI, a subject oI cognition that is itselI
insentient and connected to the transitory cognitions merely inci-
dentally; they do not Iorm part oI its nature and in liberation it is
devoid oI them and thus oI sentience. In this second camp Iall also

That these are bahuvrhis rather than karmadh!ravas meaning 'cognition-
SelI/perceiver-SelI is indicated by the Iact that he oIten uses them in arguments
against the Buddhist at points where he is not assuming the existence oI a stable
SelI but merely wanting to reIer to whatever it is that is cognition / the perceiver
in a way that is neutral to Buddhist and aiva views. They are, Iurthermore,
sometimes used by the Buddhist opponent, who oI course would not intend reI-
erence to a SelI. Below I sometimes translate them simply as 'cognition and
'perceiver respectively, in order to avoid unnecessarily clumsy sentences.
the Buddhists, but unlike the Naiyyikas they held subjectivity to
consist oI no more than these transitory, substrateless cognitive
Is Rmaka"!ha`s claim, then, that f!na is eternal simply an ex-
pression oI the view that sentience (caitanva) is eternal? When
Rmaka"!ha uses the word f!na to reIer to the unchanging nature
oI the SelI, does he not mean sentience (the state oI being con-
scious) rather than cognition (mental or perceptual action)? Would
it not be better to avoid representing him as holding the counter-
intuitive idea that cognition is unchanging, and interpret/translate
f!na as sentience when it is claimed to be enduring? To answer
any oI these questions in the aIIirmative would be to lose what is
distinctive about Rmaka"!ha`s position, Ior, as we will see, he
deliberately holds the nature oI the SelI to be exactly what the
Buddhists and the Naiyyikas term f!na; and he regards his posi-
tion as Iar Irom that oI the S#khyas Ior whom sentience (caitan-
va) but not cognition (f!na) was the nature oI the SelI. Thus we
cannot dismiss Rmaka"!ha`s view as reducible to the more easily
understandable position that sentience is the eternal nature oI the
SelI. He does indeed hold that to be the case, and that is relevant to
understanding his claim that cognition is eternal, but it is not the
whole story.
Although Buddhism and Rmaka"!ha Iall on opposite sides oI the
divide described in the paragraph beIore last, they Iall together
against the Naiyyikas and other tmavdins in denying a SelI that
is separate Irom cognition. Indeed Irom Rmaka"!ha`s own exposi-
tion oI his position, one gets the impression that Buddhism should
be the Iirst place to look to trace the inIluences on his doctrine. He
presents himselI as going a long way down the road oI Buddhism
and only splitting oII Irom it at the last moment: as we saw above,
he aligned himselI with Buddhism against all oI the other tma-
vdin opponents listed there, in that they were arguing Ior a SelI
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 87
beyond cognition, something that Rmaka"!ha, just as much as
Buddhism, regards as non-existent. This is no doubt partly a rhe-
torical device: through it Rmaka"!ha intimates that his own ver-
sion oI tmavda does not contain the shortcomings oI the others;
and his sympathy with much oI the Buddhist view will make his
critique oI it, when he Iinally turns to that, more convincing. But
this overlap between Buddhism and Rmaka"!ha is real. For Rma-
ka"!ha, just like Ior Buddhism, there is no dharmin over and above
In the NPP (in the middle oI a long avat!rik! to 1.5 |11,14|)
he writes:
na hi ras!dn!& gu$atvam asm!ka& s!&khv!n!m api v! prasiddham,
rparas!disamud!vavvatireke$!nvasva kasva cid !mraphal!der dharmi$o
For it is established neither Ior us, nor Ior the S#khyas, that taste and the
like are qualities; Ior |we| do not perceive any separate dharmin such as a
mango Iruit over and above the conglomeration oI colour, taste, etc.
He is there writing as the Buddhist opponent reIuting the
Vaie$ika arguments Ior the SelI. But in the Kira$avtti (KV) (ad
2.25ab |53,48|) he makes the same claim, in similar wording,
when writing as the Siddhntin:
nanu f!nasva ras!der iva gu$atve hetur ukta eva. so `pv avukta' d#%!nta-
sv!sm!n prati s!dhvadharm!siddhatv!t. ras!davo hi bh!v!' sa&hat! eva
f!vam!n!' sa&hat! eva niruddh! ca s!&khvasaugat!dibhir iv!sm!bhir
api pram!$asiddhatv!d arthakriv!kara$!' kathvante. na tv anva' ka cit
te#!m !ravabhtas tadvvatireke$a tasv!nupalambhan!d iti.
Objection: |We| have already stated a logical reason Ior cognition being a
quality like taste and such like. |Siddhntin:| That |stated reason| is also
invalid, because Ior us the property to be proven (i.e., being a quality) is un-
established in the example (i.e., taste and such like).
For taste and the like,

Literally, 'because Ior the example the property to be proven is unestab-
lished. The argument that was stated above proceeded by pointing to Ieatures
shared by cognition with taste, smell, temperature and sound. It concluded that
cognition must be a quality just like they are. Rmaka"!ha`s response here is that
he does not even accept that taste and the like are qualities.
entities that are produced only conglomerated |with the other kinds oI sense-
object| and cease only |so| conglomerated,
are taught by us, just like by the
S#khyas, Buddhists and others, as perIorming causal activity |without in-
hering in any substrate|,
because they are established by means oI knowl-
edge. There is no separate |entity|
that is their substrate, because |we| do
not perceive it over and above them.
Rmaka"!ha puts Iorward as what 'we hold to be the case the
same contention in two places, where 'we in one place means
aivas and in the other Buddhists.
This illustrates that Buddhism`s
inIluence on Rmaka"!ha is not merely apparent. Rmaka"!ha Iul-
ly adopts the Buddhist rejection oI a dharmin over and above
dharmas, which means he cannot accept a SelI over and above cog-
nition. For him, as Ior Buddhism, the perceiver is simply cognition.

I.e., taste does not occur in isolation Irom colour, smell, temperature and the
ability to produce sound.
Since the opponents here, Naiyyikas and Vaie$ikas, also hold taste and
the like to produce eIIects (even iI they may not choose the term arthakriv!), I
add in this phrase in square brackets. The only way to make sense oI the sen-
tence without such an insertion would be to assume that the text waits until the
next sentence to describe what is distinctive about the view oI 'us, S#khyas
and Buddhists, despite naming them as the holders oI the contention in the pre-
sent sentence.
I understand the implied word bh!va' to explain the gender oI the adjective
For another parallel passage (where Rmaka"!ha is writing as a Buddhist
opponent) see MV, vidv!p!da 153,811: vadi ras!dn!& gu$atvam asm!ka&
siddha& sv!t, tatas te#!& dharmi$v!sv!tmanv avasth!na& siddhvet. te#!m tv
ac!k#u#apratvak#atve `pi gu$atv!siddhe', n!tmanv avasth!na& asva f!nasvo-
papadvate. tadasiddhi ca rparas!divvatireke$a gu$ino `nvasv!nupalabdhe'.
'II it were established Ior us that taste and the like are qualities, it would be es-
tablished that this (i.e., cognition) rests in the SelI as they do in their substrate.
But because it is not proved that they are qualities even though they are invisible
and perceptible |by a sense other than the eyes|, it is not plausible that this cog-
nition rests in the SelI. And the non-establishing |oI them being qualities| Iol-
lows Irom |our| non-perception oI a separate substrate in isolation Irom the
colour, taste and the like. (At the end oI the penultimate sentence oI the San-
skrit the edition reads f!nasvopapadvate Ior asva f!nasvopapadvate. I have
adopted the asva because it is Iound in all three Kashmiri manuscripts as re-
ported in the edition; and because it makes good sense, the part oI the verse
under comment at this point being n!tmanv avasthitasv!sva.)
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 89
OI course he departs Irom Buddhism, in that he saves the existence
oI a SelI by claiming the eternality oI cognition. But his acceptance
oI the Buddhist denial oI a dharmin separate Irom dharmas looks
like that which leads him to this unusual position.
3. (")%'*$
It certainly needs to be stated, though, that Rmaka"!ha`s tradition
was not the Iirst to deny the existence oI a separate dharmin in
which dharmas inhere, and yet to preserve the existence oI the SelI.
As stated by Rmaka"!ha himselI in both oI the passages quoted so
Iar, the S#khyas had already espoused such a denial.
They had
also, as remarked earlier, opposed the NyyaVaie$ika view oI
consciousness as an adventitious quality oI the soul, holding, like
Rmaka"!ha, that sentience is the very nature oI the soul; see a&%
kara`s remark in the Brahmastrabh!#va (BSBh) (ad 2.3.18):
sa ki& k!$abhuf!n!m iv!gantukacaitanva' svato `cetana', ahosvit s!&"
khv!n!m iva nitvacaitanvasvarpa eva?
Is the |SelI| insentient oI itselI, its sentience incidental (!gantuka), as ac-
cording to the Vaie$ikas, or does it indeed have eternal sentience as its
nature, as according to the S#khyas?
The SelI oI the NyyaVaie$ikas does not have sentience as
part oI its nature (svabh!va/svarpa), but is simply the locus oI
sparks oI sentience/cognition thrown up when certain Iactors are
present. For the S#khyas, by contrast, as Ior Rmaka"!ha, sen-
tience belongs to it innately (naisargika) and permanently and does
not depend on any causes outside oI itselI. To what extent then can
Rmaka"!ha`s position be seen as inheritance Irom S#khya?

For more on this S#khya view, which is not, however, advanced in any oI
the surviving S#khya sources, see Wezler 1985, Bronkhorst 1994, and Watson
2006: 184188.
3.1 Inheritance from S#khya
A source that reveals the closeness oI Rmaka"!ha`s position to
earlier S#khya is the Buddhist reIutation oI that tradition in
ntarak$ita`s (c. 725788) TS. We see that the positions attributed
to the S#khya opponent there are similar to Rmaka"!ha`s, and
that the kind oI objections that ntarak$ita has to those positions
are also put by Rmaka"!ha into the mouth oI his Buddhist op-
At the beginning oI the section that reIutes the S#khya con-
cept oI the soul ntarak$ita writes:
caitanvam anve manvante bhinna& buddhisvarpata' '
!tmana ca nifa& rpa& caitanva& kalpavanti te '' (285)
tatr!pi rpaabd!dicetas!& vedvate katham '
suvvakta& bhedavad rpam ek! cec cetane#vate '' (287)
(285) Others (i.e., the S#khyas) hold sentience to be distinct Irom the own
nature oI the Buddhi; and they postulate sentience as the innate nature oI the
(287) There too, iI consciousness is held to be single,
how is it that the
Iorms oI cognitions oI colour, words and the like are clearly experienced to
be diIIerent |Irom each other|?
To reIlect the Iact that three diIIerent words are used in the
Sanskrit, caitanva, cetan! and cetas, I use three diIIerent English
words, sentience, consciousness and cognition. They can be distin-
guished to the extent that sentience reIers to the quality oI being
conscious; cognition to the process oI thinking about / perceiving
objects or to the individual thoughts/perceptions; and conscious-
ness Ialls between the two oI them, being used sometimes synony-
mously with the Iormer and sometimes with the latter. But that they
are intended by the author oI these two verses to be extremely close
in meaning is clear Irom the Ilow oI the argument. For it takes the

Souls are separate Irom each other in S#khya and so, thereIore, are the
diIIerent consciousnesses associated with those souls. But consciousness is sin-
gle in the sense that a particular soul`s consciousness continues to exist in the
same Iorm over time despite perceiving diIIerent objects.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 91
singularity oI consciousness to be implied by sentience being the
nature oI the SelI (something that is single), and it takes the plural-
ity oI cognition to be seemingly incompatible with the singularity
oI consciousness. Neither oI these two would Iollow iI the three
words were not all but conIlated in meaning.
II the thing to which they reIer is single over time, as held by
S#khya (and Rmaka"!ha), how, asks ntarak$ita, can we ac-
count Ior the distinct and transitory instances oI cognition that
seem to be clearly experienced? Rmaka"!ha`s Buddhist also
makes this point in the Mata&gavtti (MV) (vidv!p!da, introduc-
ing 6.34c35a):
nanv eva& gr!hak!tmano f!narpasv!k#a$ikatve `pi 'p!de me vedan!,
irasi me vedan!, sukhavedan!, du'khan!o `bhd bhavi#vati v! itv
utpattvapavargavo' sa&vedan!d anitvataiva.
But iI this is so (nanv evam), even though the perceiver, whose nature is
cognition, is non-momentary, it is certainly not eternal (anitvataiva) because
we experience it to rise and cease in |such cases as| 'there is a sensation in
my Ioot, there is a sensation in my head, there is a Ieeling oI pleasure, |my|
sorrow went away or it will go away.
The related objection that iI cognition were single, we would
not be able to perceive diIIerent objects, is put by Rmaka"!ha`s
Buddhist in the NPP (introducing 1.6ab |17,34|):
vadv eva& gr!hak!tmana' sarv!rth!n
pratv avie#!n nlasveva& sa&vin
na ptasveti pratvartha& sa&vidbhed!siddhi'.
II that were the case (i.e., iI the SelI shone Iorth always as the revealer oI
objects and as nothing more than cognition), then, because the perceiver
would not diIIer with regard to each oI its objects, one would not be able to
establish |the way that| cognition diIIers in regard to |diIIerent| objects, |as
when we say,| 'this is a cognition oI blue, not oI yellow.
II the perceiver (which Ior Rmaka"!ha is the same as cogni-
tion/consciousness) never changes, how could it register diIIerent

sarv!rth!n Ked pc, msB; sarv!n Ked ac, Ped.
kinds oI objects? This too is a point that had been made earlier by
ntarak$ita against S#khya (TS 288):
ekarpe ca caitanve sarvak!lam avasthite '
n!n!vidh!rthabhokttva& katha& n!mopapadvate ''
And iI consciousness endured always in the same Iorm, how could |it| be
the enjoyer oI many kinds oI objects?
In these Iour objections the plurality oI cognition/consciousness
is argued Ior by pointing to the Iact that it has diIIerent kinds oI
objects (colour versus sound, blue versus yellow); that it exists in
diIIerent locations in the body (my Ioot versus my head); that there
are qualitatively diIIerent types oI it (pleasure versus pain); and
that it is made up oI transitory occurrences (yesterday I Ielt sorrow
but today I do not). The tone oI the two pairs oI objections is
slightly diIIerent. In the Iirst pair the claim is that cognition cannot
be single because we experience distinct cognitions; in the second
it is that iI cognition were single we would not be able to experi-
ence diIIerent objects. The implication oI the second is that Ior
cognition to register the presence oI objects, its nature must be
aIIected, i.e., diIIerentiated, by them.
Both S#khya and Rmaka"!ha reply to these two kinds oI
objection in various diIIerent ways. In response to the Iirst Rma-
ka"!ha adopts a S#khya view, namely that things like pleasure,
pain, etc., which Buddhism puts Iorward as indicating that cogni-
tion is changing, are simply objects oI cognition. As we cease ex-
periencing pleasure and begin to experience pain, our cognition
stays the same; all that changes are its objects.
Dharmakrti had earlier argued against this view by pointing out
that the same object may produce pleasure in one person and quite
a diIIerent Ieeling in another, due to diIIerences in those people`s
mental predisposition (bh!van!). II pleasure and pain were mere
objects, impinging on consciousness Irom outside, one would rather
expect them to occur in Iixed ways. Since they are conditioned by
mental predispositions, they should be more closely associated with
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 93
consciousness than objects completely external to it (Pram!$a-
vinicava |PVin| 1.23, identiIied in Stern 1991):
avie#e `pi b!hvasva vie#!t prtit!pavo' '
bh!van!v! vie#e$a n!rtharp!' sukh!dava' ''
Because pleasure and pain diIIer |between people|,
due to a diIIerence oI
mental predisposition (bh!van!), even when the external |object| is the
same, pleasure and the like are not oI the nature oI objects.
Dharmakrti`s position is thus that they are caittas, Iactors asso-
ciated with cognition. Rmaka"!ha (in MV, vidv!p!da, ad 6.34c
35a) has his Buddhist opponent quote this verse. Rmaka"!ha re-
sponds that the Iact that pleasure and pain diIIer between people
does not reIlect any diIIerence oI cognition in the sense oI that
which perceives, but simply a diIIerence oI determinative cogni-
tions (buddhis). DiIIerences oI mental conditioning mean that diI-
Ierent determinative cognitions arise, as a result oI the Buddhi

moulding itselI into diIIerent 'shapes;
but determinative cogni-
tions Ior Rmaka"!ha are, in relation to cognition proper (i.e., the
perceiver), simply objects.
Perceiving cognition looks on to deter-

Perhaps this verse could also mean that there is a diIIerence oI pleasure,
pain and the like in one person when conIronted by the same object at diIIerent
times, not necessarily between diIIerent people.
The Sanskrit term buddhi is ambiguous in S#khya and aiva contexts, de-
noting either the Iaculty that, according to these two traditions, produces deter-
minative cognitions or the determinative cognitions themselves. To reIer to the
Iaculty I write Buddhi (unitalicized and with a capital 'B).
MV, vidv!p!da, ad 6.34c35a (173174): tad api pratvak#aviruddhatv!d
avuktam eva, bh!van!vie#e$a buddhivie#asiddhv! te#!& vie#asv!nvath!"
siddhatv!c ca. 'That too is certainly incorrect because it is contradicted by direct
experience; and because their (i.e., pleasure, pain and the like`s) diIIerence can
be otherwise established by establishing a diIIerence oI determinative cognitions
(buddhis) on account oI a diIIerence in mental predisposition.
See KV ad 1.15 (18,3335): eva& nirgu$atvam api buddhisukhadu'kh!d"
n!& k!d!citkatven!nubhavato gha%!der iva gr!hvatvena tadviruddhadharma-
tav!nubhav!t. 'The same is true oI the Iact that |the soul| is without qualities
(i.e., this too is established by experience), because |determinative| cognition,
pleasure, pain and the like are experienced as having the property opposite to
|that oI| the |perceiver|, i.e., as objects oI |rather than subjects oI| perception,
like pots and such like, as they are experienced as happening only occasionally.
minative cognitions, and to the pleasure or pain associated with
them, without in any way being changed by these changing objects.
Rmaka"!ha`s distinction between observing consciousness,
which is the nature oI the SelI, and determinative cognition, which
is the Iunction oI the Buddhi, is oI S#khya origin. The Buddhi
can also be observed to serve the same Iunction in both systems. In
Rmaka"!ha`s response to Dharmakrti it plays a crucial role as an
intermediary between external objects and unchanging cognition. It
can account Ior what is subjective and yet changing, such as pleas-
ure and pain, without allowing the unchanging nature oI perceiving
cognition to be aIIected. It plays a similar role in S#khya. The
S#khya opponent in the TS adduces the Buddhi when the Bud-
dhist Siddhntin presents him with a dilemma. Either the soul/con-
sciousness is modiIied when an object is cognized; or it is not. II it
is not modiIied in some way by an object, how can it be the
experiencer oI that object?; iI it is modiIied, it cannot be eternal.

ntarak$ita continues (TS 296297):
sv!n matam vi#av!k!r! buddhir !dau vivartate '
tav! vvavasita& c!rtha& puru#a' pratipadvate ''
pratibimbodavadv!r! caivam asvopabhoktt! '
na fah!ti svarpa& tu puru#o `va& kad!cana ''
It might be held |by you S#khyas as a response to our objection|: 'First the
Buddhi is transIormed
so that it has the Iorm oI the object; and the object
determined by the |Buddhi| is cognized by the soul. And thus the |soul| is

CI. TS 294295:
arthopabhogak!le ca vadi naiv!sva vikriv! '
naiva bhokttvam asva sv!t prakti copak!ri$ ''
vikriv!v! ca sadbh!ve nitvatvam avahvate '
anvath!tva& vik!ro hi t!davasthve ca tat katham ''
And iI at the time oI the experience oI an object there is absolutely no
modiIication oI the |SelI/consciousness|, then it certainly cannot be the
experiencer, and Prakti cannot assist it. And iI |its| true nature is modi-
Iied, then |its| eternality is lost; Ior modiIication is to become other-
wise. And iI it remains in the same state, how could that |becoming
otherwise occur|?
The word vivartate usually implies an apparent as opposed to real trans-
Iormation (pari$!ma). Such a Ilavour may be intended here.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 95
the experiencer in that a reIlection arises |oI the object in the Buddhi|. But
this soul never loses |its| own nature.
Here too we see the Buddhi, as an intermediary between the
sentience oI the soul and external objects, being oIIered as an ex-
planation Ior how diIIerent objects can be perceived without the
soul`s sentience being modiIied in any way. The problem is the
lack oI symmetry between unity on the side oI sentience and plu-
rality on the side oI objects. This lack oI symmetry makes it hard to
understand how the sentient entity can detect the diIIerent objects
and the diIIerences between them. The Buddhi oIIers a solution by
allowing Ior a measure oI symmetry. By taking on a diIIerent Iorm
in response to each object that conIronts it, it provides a reIlection,
within the conscious being, oI the plurality oI objects. (From the
Buddhist point oI view though, iI the reIlection occurs not in the
sentient SelI itselI, but merely in the insentient Buddhi, the rela-
tionship between the Buddhi and the SelI is problematic in just the
same way; the asymmetry has been re-located but not removed.)
3.2 Difference from S#khya
Thus Rmaka"!ha shows quite considerable inheritance Irom
S#khya. But there is an important iI subtle diIIerence. The S#%
khyas accept that the soul is oI the nature oI cetan!/caitanva, as
Rmaka"!ha too sometimes expresses it. But Ior Rmaka"!ha the
soul is oI the nature oI f!na. This is certainly not acceptable to
the S#khyas; Ior them f!na belongs not to the soul but to the
Buddhi, i.e., within insentient prakti.
That this diIIerence between Rmaka"!ha and S#khya is a
matter oI more than just choice oI words can be seen through the
Iact that Rmaka"!ha groups together the liberation oI the S#%
khyas with that oI the NyyaVaie$ikas as being f!narahita, de-
void oI cognition.
The soul may continue to have consciousness
(cetan!/caitanva) in some sense in S#khya liberation; but the Iact

See his introduction to Narevarapark#! 1.66.
that it is totally devoid oI f!na makes it, Irom Rmaka"!ha`s point
oI view, eIIectively the same as the insentient (fa(a), stone-like
liberated soul oI the NyyaVaie$ikas. The S#khya`s sentience
is thus a Iar more passive and empty awareness than the f!na that
is the nature oI the soul Ior Rmaka"!ha. And whereas Ior the
S#khyas f!na ceases at liberation, Ior Rmaka"!ha it expands
into omniscience (sarvavi#avaf!na), the soul`s true nature.
This diIIerence between S#khya and aivism is related to the
more general diIIerence that aivism ascribes action to the SelI,
whereas S#khya does not. InsoIar as f!na is a kind oI mental
action, ascribing it to the SelI conIlicts with the completely inactive
nature oI the S#khya SelI, but Iits easily with the aiva notion oI
a SelI whose agency stays with it even at liberation.
One way oI characterizing the diIIerence is to say that Rma-
ka"!ha does not distinguish between sentience and cognition, but
S#khya does. Rmaka"!ha uses caitanva and f!na interchangea-
bly, and could be said to characterize sentience as cognition. For
S#khya, by contrast, these two notions are clearly distinguished,
one being an action and the other not, one belonging to prakti and
the other to puru#a. The conIlation oI sentience and cognition, as
we Iind in Rmaka"!ha, is a more usual attitude amongst the phi-
losophical schools than their separation; Ior the Buddhists and the
NyyaVaie$ikas sentience is simply a Ieature oI cognition. It is
precisely because the Buddhists conIlated sentience and cognition
that ntarak$ita regarded it as problematic, in the Iirst citation oI
this section, Ior sentience to be single and cognition plural. The
S#khya solution, and whether it is successIul is another matter, is
to distinguish clearly between sentience and cognition, the Iormer
belonging to the SelI and the latter to the Buddhi. The Iact that
Rmaka"!ha locates cognition in the SelI
rather than in the
Buddhi, and downgrades the Buddhi to simply an object oI cogni-

Apart Irom determinative cognition (adhvavas!va), which he does indeed
locate in the Buddhi.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 97
tion, represents a quite considerable diIIerence between him and

Occasionally Rmaka"!ha`s explicit associations oI his tradition
with S#khya are misleading inasmuch as they disguise deeper diI-
Ierences. In the course oI commenting on a verse Irom the Kira$a-
tantra (1.15) in which iva describes the soul as devoid oI qualities
(nirgu$a), Rmaka"!ha writes (17,78):
nirgu$a itv anena tu naiv!vik!did#%abuddhisukhadu'kh!dinav!tmagu$a-
pratik#epe$a s!&khv!did#%asva nirgu$atvasv!nugraha'.
But with |the Lord`s mention oI| the word devoid oI qualities` (nirgu$a')
|as a description oI the soul| what is Iavoured, by rejecting the nine qualities
oI the soul cognition, pleasure, pain and |desire, aversion, eIIort, dharma,
adharma and sa&sk!ras| recognized by the Naiyyikas and |Vaie$ikas|,
is |the view| recognized by the S#khyas and others that |the soul| is devoid
oI qualities.
Rmaka"!ha thus identiIies the aiva rejection oI a soul that has
cognition as its quality as a S#khya view. But the reason that
Rmaka"!ha denies that cognition is a quality oI the soul is that his
is a dynamic soul in which cognition is more intrinsic to it than a
quality; whereas the reason that the S#khyas denied that cogni-
tion is a quality oI the soul was that such a relation would imply
too close an association, Ior them, oI cognition with the soul.

aivism`s recasting oI the role oI the Buddhi as the object, not the locus, oI
cognition had occurred beIore Rmaka"!ha, at least as early as Sadyojyotis. See
TS 14:
ravivat prak!arpo vadi n!ma mah!&s tath!pi karmatv!t '
kara$!ntaras!pek#a' akto gr!havitum !tm!nam ''
Even iI the Buddhi is capable oI illumination, like the sun, nevertheless,
because it is an object oI cognition, it is only capable oI grasping the
SelI when aided by Iurther Iaculties.
As indicated in this verse, the Iact that the Buddhi has a diIIerent Iunction in
aivism was connected with the Iact that the aivas postulated the existence
oI Iurther Iaculties above the Buddhi: r!ga, vidv! and kal!, three oI the eleven
tattvas that the aivas added above the twenty-Iive recognized by the S#khyas.
See Frauwallner 1962: 10 and Boccio 2002: 1123.
4. +,-"./$
But there was one tradition that went as Iar as to say that f!na (not
merely caitanva, cetan!, sa&vit) is the nature oI the SelI, namely
Vednta. Thus Rmaka"!ha is not alone in holding that f!na is
eternal, a position which is so at odds with the concept oI f!na in
Buddhism, Nyya and Mm#s. Vedntin authors adduced the
Upani$ads as support,
and Rmaka"!ha too quotes one oI these
Upani$adic passages more than once in order to deIend his view
that f!na never ceases.
That he regards it as authoritative and as
support Ior the validity oI his position reminds us that, despite be-
lieving in the superiority oI aiva over Vedic religion, he also sees
himselI as to some extent within the Vedic Iold and places some
value in holding views that are congruent with Vedic ruti. In order
to investigate the extent oI convergence between Rmaka"!ha`s
view and that oI Vednta, we will now examine a Iew passages
Irom the earliest three Vedntin authors works oI whom survive
and who all certainly predate Rmaka"!ha: Gau(apda, Ma"(ana-
mira and a&kara.

4.1 Gau$apda
From the Gau(ap!dak!rik! (GK) by the earliest oI these three
authors, three points can be observed. The Iirst is that unlike S#%
khya and like Rmaka"!ha he does not regard f!na as changing.
See how, in the Iollowing two verses Ior example, f!na is de-

For example satva& f!nam ananta& brahma (Taittirva-Upani#ad 2.1.1);
na hi dra#%ur d#%er viparilopo vidvate (Bhad!ra$vaka-Upani#ad |BU|
4.3.23); and na hi mantur mater viparilopo vidvate (BU 4.3.28).
See Ior example PNKV ad 47ab, where he quotes BU 4.3.23, and NPP ad
1.64 where he quotes BU 4.3.23 and 4.3.28. (In the Iirst case he is arguing
against the NyyaVaie$ika view that cognition ceases at liberation; in the sec-
ond he is arguing against the Pupata view that at liberation the Lord`s power
oI cognition transIers into the soul, which implies Ior Rmaka"!ha that the soul`s
cognition ceases.)
I am grateIul to Diwakar Acharya and S. L. P. Anjaneya Sarma Ior pointing
me to relevant parts oI texts by these three authors.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 99
scribed as afa, unborn, and how in the third it is described as
akalpakam afa& f!na& fev!bhinna& pracak#ate '
brahma fevam afa& nitvam afen!fa& vibudhvate '' (3.33)
They assert that cognition is Iree oI postulation, unborn |and| non-diIIerent
Irom what is to be cognized. Brahman is what is to be cognized, unborn
|and| eternal. |Thus| the unborn is known by the unborn.
afe#v afam asa&kr!nta& dharme#u f!nam i#vate '
vato na kramate f!nam asa&ga& tena krtitam '' (4.96)
Cognition, which is unborn, is held not to cross over into the unborn entities.
Because cognition does not cross over, it is thereIore proclaimed |to be|
without attachment.
f!nen!k!akalpena dharm!n vo gaganopam!n '
fev!bhinnena sambuddhas ta& vande dvipad!& varam '' (4.1)
I bow down to the best oI humans, who through knowledge like the ether
|and| not diIIerent Irom the knowable, knew the entities comparable to the
Thus Vednta seems to have had Irom the time oI Gau(apda a
concept oI f!na not as a discrete event oI limited time, but as an
unchanging state.

The second point to note is that cognition Ior Gau(apda, as Ior
Rmaka"!ha, is completely unaIIected by its objects. See the
Iollowing three verses:

citta& na sa&spatv artha& n!rth!bh!sa& tathaiva ca '
abhto hi vata c!rtho n!rth!bh!sas tata' pthak '' (4.26)
The mind touches neither the object nor the image oI the object. And
because the object is certainly non-existent, the image oI the object is not
diIIerent Irom it.

I write 'seems as it is possible that when Gau(apda describes cognition
as unoriginated he means not that it is unchanging but that real cognition is not
GK 4.96, quoted above, also illustrates this point.
tasm!n na f!vate citta& cittadva& na f!vate '
tasva pavanti ve f!ti& khe vai pavanti te padam '' (4.28)
ThereIore the mind is not produced and that which is perceived by the mind
is not produced. Those who see it as being produced see Ioot|-prints oI
birds| in the sky.
To see cognition as individuated by its objects, with each object
leaving its mark on cognition, is like imagining that the path oI a
bird across the sky leaves its mark on the parts oI the sky that it
kramate na hi buddhasva f!na& dharme#u t!vina' '
sarve dharm!s tath! f!na& naitad buddhena bh!#itam '' (4. 99)
The cognition oI the enlightened protector does not cross over into entities.
All entities likewise do not |cross over| into cognition. This has been de-
clared by the Buddha.

For cognition to perceive objects, it does not have to mould it-
selI into the shape oI the object, as the Buddhi does according to
S#khya; or as vif!na does according to the Sautrntikas. For
both Gau(apda and Rmaka"!ha (as Ior the Nirkravdin Yog%
cras) it Iunctions like a light that shines Iorth constantly, illumi-
nating objects but not being transIormed by them in any way.
But there are Iundamental diIIerences between Gau(apda and
Rmaka"!ha, which is the third point to be noted. Consider these
verses (GK 4.4648):
eva& na f!vate cittam eva& dharm! af!' smt!' '
evam eva vif!nanto na patanti viparvave ''
fuvakr!dik!bh!sam al!taspandita& vath! '
graha$agr!hak!bh!sa& vif!naspandita& tath! ''
aspandam!nam al!tam an!bh!sam afa& vath! '
aspandam!na& vif!nam an!bh!sam afa& tath! ''
Cognition is thus not produced, and entities are thus taught to be unborn.
Those who know |that the truth is| precisely thus do not Iall into error.

As is evident Irom this and other verses, parts oI this text are particularly
clearly inIluenced by Buddhism.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 101
Just as the motion oI a Iirebrand takes on a straight, curved and otherwise
appearance, so the motion oI cognition takes on the appearance oI percep-
tion and perceiver.
Just as a Iirebrand |when| not moving does not produce images and is un-
born, so cognition |when| not moving does not produce images and is un-
It is clear that Ior Gau(apda even the notions oI perception
(graha$a) and perceiver (gr!haka) are Ialse appearances, compara-
ble to the Ialse appearances oI continuous lines oI light when a Iire-
brand is swung rapidly. In reality nothing at all is happening.
Objects are not being grasped, there is no grasper and no grasping.
For Rmaka"!ha by contrast, really existing objects, that are sepa-
rate Irom cognition, are being grasped by real perceivers. His
overlap with Gau(apda is simply that the cognition that illumi-
nates those objects remains always the same. There is no plurality
whatsoever in Gau(apda`s universe; in Rmaka"!ha`s there is
plenty, but it all remains on the object side oI the gr!hvagr!haka
A Iurther Iundamental diIIerence, perhaps obvious enough
not to need stating, is that though Ior Rmaka"!ha a single be-
ing`s cognition remains Iorever undivided, it is separate Irom all
other beings` cognition: souls are all separate Irom each other in
Saiddhntika theology, remaining so even aIter liberation.
4.2 Ma!$anamira
Ma"(anamira`s Brahmasiddhi (BSi) is a text that is Irequently
quoted by Rmaka"!ha when he expounds Vednta in order to at-
tack it. But on the issue oI the eternality oI cognition it advances
positions very close to Rmaka"!ha`s. In its Iirst verse it describes
Brahman as single, undying, unborn and cognition, thus implying
that the Iirst three adjectives apply also to cognition:
!nandam ekam amtam afa& vif!nam ak#aram '
asarva& sarvam abhava& namasv!ma' praf!patim ''
When Ma"(ana comes to comment on this verse he explains
that the word vif!na has been included to reject the Nyya
Vaie$ika view that the SelI does not have cognition as its nature
(svabh!va) but only as a quality (gu$a) that leaves the SelI at lib-
eration (15,18 II.):
kecit tu vif!nagu$am avif!nasvabh!vam !tmatattvam icchanta' samut-
kh!tasakalavie#agu$e svarpe tasva sthiti& brahmapr!ptim !hu' . t!n
pratv !ha vif!nam iti.
But some, holding that the SelI-entity is not oI the nature oI cognition, hav-
ing cognition |merely| as its quality, say that the attaining oI Brahman
the |SelI|`s existence in its own nature, in which all particular qualities have
been completely eradicated . Addressing itselI to them, |the text| says,
Ma"(ana continues to expound the NyyaVaie$ika view as
s! hi tasv!vasth! dehendriv!dvup!dhibhir akt!vacched! bhat brahmeti
For that state oI it
is proclaimed as Brahman, being large,
|as| it is not
limited by secondary Iactors such as the body, senses and such like.
f!nasvabh!vatve ca sarvagatasva dehendrivanirapek#asva nitvatv!f f!na-
svarpasva sannihitavividhafevabhedasva bhattara' sa&s!ra' sv!t.
And iI |the SelI|, which is all-pervading and independent oI the body and
senses, were cognition by nature, then because that to which the cognition-

It may seem surprising to depict a Naiyyika as concerned with the
'attaining oI Brahman, but Naiyyikas also accepted the validity oI the Veda oI
course. For Jayantabha!!a (though he postdates Ma"(ana) protection oI the Veda
was the primary purpose oI Nyya. See Ior example NM, p. 1: nv!vavistaras tu
mlastambhabhta' sarvavidv!n!m, vedapr!m!$varak#!hetutv!t; p. 11: vasva
hi vedapr!m!$ve sa&av!n! viparvast! v! mati' ta& prati !str!rambha'; and
Kataoka 2003.
The state described in the previous sentence in which the SelI is Iree oI all
its particular qualities including cognition.
The Iact that it is large (bhat) is here given as the etymological reason Ior
it being called brahman.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 103
nature belongs (i.e., the SelI),
in the proximity oI which is a plurality oI
various objects oI cognition, is eternal, sa&s!ra would be yet greater.

The ability to cognize, Ior the NyyaVaie$ikas, is dependent
on the soul`s association with a body and senses. When this asso-
ciation is broken the cognition oI objects will naturally cease. Thus
the NyyaVaie$ika view makes it easy to understand how one`s
experience oI objects ceases at liberation: experience itselI ceases
then, being an adventitious quality oI the soul. But iI one accepts
the Vedntin view that the soul is oI the nature oI cognition and can
perceive even without a body and senses, then in the liberated state
it should perceive all the objects in the universe. Since it is all-
pervading it is in proximity to all oI them; and since it is eternal it
should be stuck with perceiving them Iorever.
The Naiyyika then imagines that the Vedntin may try to get
out oI the problem by asserting that though the SelI has as its
nature cognition, it does not actually cognize objects in liberation.
He replies that in that case it would not be oI the nature oI cogni-

I take it that svabh!va and svarpa are being used synonymously here.
I have taken f!nasvarpasva as a bahuvrhi, though it is quite possible that it is
a karmadh!rava, as Iavoured by Vetter. A small piece oI evidence Ior the bahu-
vrhi interpretation is that the same word occurs in the next sentence where it
must be a bahuvrhi (see Iootnote 38). The argument is not really aIIected either
It is possible that the genitive ending oI f!nasvarpasva should be taken
more closely with bhattara' sa&s!ra' sv!t.
Greater than what? In view oI the Iact that in the previous sentence the
same word (bhat) was used to describe Brahman / the state oI the SelI in
liberation, one possibility is that it is here claimed that sa&s!ra would be greater
than Brahman/liberation. But such an idea does not strike me as likely. Another
possible interpretation is that sa&s!ra would be harder to break out oI on the
Vedntin view (f!nasvabh!vatve) than on the NyyaVaie$ika view. But my
preIerred interpretation is that which I deduce to be Vetter`s Irom his translation
oI this passage, namely that when one breaks one`s Ialse association with the
body and senses and attains the real nature oI the SelI, one`s entanglement with
objects becomes even greater: expanding Irom the small range oI our senses to
the whole universe, and remaining there eternally. I do not Iollow Vetter`s inter-
pretation oI the syntax oI this sentence. He takes nitvatv!f f!nasvarpasva to be
giving a reason Ior why the soul is dehendrivanirapek#asva.
tion in any coherent sense oI the word 'cognition, Ior the meaning
oI f!n!ti ('he cognizes) requires an object; it is a transitive verb
which cannot be used when unrelated with objects oI cognition.
thus makes no sense to claim that the SelI has as its nature cogni-
tion unless in liberation it cognizes objects.
That completes the speech oI the Naiyyika. Ma"(ana replies
Iirst by citing ruti;
and then by giving two analogies.
vath! d!hako `pi vahnir upanta& d!hva& dahati, n!nupantam ad!hva&
ca, vath! ca spha%ikadarpa$!dava' svacch!' prak!asvabh!v! api vad
evopanidhvate vogva& ca tacch!v!pattv! tad eva daravanti, evam ava&
puru#o bhog!vatanaarrastho bhogas!dhanendrivopant!n abd!dn
bhu&kte, tacch!v!pattv! nitvacaitanvo `pi. ata ca na sarvasva sarva-
daritvaprasa&ga'. na ca muktau b!hvavi#avopabhoga'.
Just as Iire, even though it is a 'burner, burns |only| those objects that are
brought |close to it|, and that are combustible, not objects that are not
brought |close| or are incombustible, and just like a crystal, mirror or other
translucent thing, although |permanently| oI the nature oI reIlection, reIlect
only what is brought close and what is suitable |to be reIlected| by taking on
its image, so this puru#a, resting in the body, the locus oI experience, ex-
periences |only| those sounds and the like that are brought near by the sense
Iaculties, the instruments oI experience, by taking on their image, even
though its sentience is eternal. And thus the unwanted consequence that
everyone should perceive everything does not |Iollow|; and in liberation
there is no experience oI external objects.
The comparisons with Iire or a reIlective surIace are supposed
to illustrate how the soul can be permanently oI the nature oI cog-
nition and yet only cognize certain objects at certain times. Ma"(a-
na`s position with regard to the soul is that in order to take in
images oI objects it needs to be associated with sense Iaculties;
thus in liberation it cognizes nothing, and prior to liberation it cog-
nizes only those objects that are brought into proximity with it.
One could quibble that this is not satisIactorily parallel with the

atha na vif!n!ti ki&cit, na tarhi f!nasvarpa', sakarmako hi f!n!tvartho
n!sati karmasambandhe vufvate.
rvate hi, 'satva& f!nam ananta& brahma (Taittirva-Upani#ad 2.1.1),
'vif!nam !nandam (BU 3.9.28) itv!di.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 105
two examples. The reason that Iire is permanently regarded as a
'burner, and a mirror as permanently reIlective, is that iI ever
suitable objects are brought into their range they will burn/reIlect
them. But the soul in liberation has all objects in its range, yet still
observes none oI them owing to its lack oI sense Iaculties. The Iire
and the mirror, by contrast, require no instruments oI burning/re-
Ilection other than themselves. Perhaps it was because oI an aware-
ness oI this problem that Ma"(ana oIIers a second response.
api c!sv!bhedadaranaparini#pattv! sarvasminn !tmabh!vam !panne,
dv!bh!v!d eva na darana& dksvabh!vasv!pi, dagdhur iva vahner
d!hv!bh!v!n na d!ha', prak!asveva ca prak!v!bh!v!n na prak!akat!.
tad uktam 'na hi dra#%ur d#%er viparilopo vidvate, avin!itv!t; na tu tad
dvitvam asti tato `nvad vibhaktam, vat pavet,
'vatra tv asva sarvam
Moreover the |soul| (asva) Ior whom everything has become the SelI,
through the perIection oI its seeing oI non-duality, has no seeing simply
because there is nothing to be seen, even though it is oI the nature oI a seer
(dksvabh!va); just like Iire, a 'burner, does not burn anything when there
is nothing to be burnt,
and just like light does not illuminate anything when
there is nothing to be illuminated. ThereIore it has been said, 'There is no
cessation oI the seer`s seeing, because it is indestructible, but there is no
other second, separate Irom it, that it may see; 'in which everything has
become the SelI Ior it, etc.
Rmaka"!ha too has to conIront the problem with which Ma"(a-
na is dealing here, namely why the non-perception oI objects ever
occurs Ior something that is innately and permanently oI the nature
oI cognition, whose sentience does not depend on connection with
sense Iaculties. But their responses diIIer. Ma"(ana`s second re-
sponse, namely to point to the Iact that in liberation everything has
become the SelI so there are no objects to perceive, is not open to

BU 4.3.23.
BU 4.5.15.
II there is nothing to be burnt, would the Iire not go out? Birgit Kellner sug-
gested as a solution to this problem that d!hva here does not include the Iuel that
is keeping the Iire going, but only additional combustible objects that may be
brought into its proximity.
Rmaka"!ha. For him objects are irreducibly separate Irom Selves.
How then does he get around the problem oI perception oI objects
in liberation? The answer is that he does not need to, as it is not a
problem Ior him. What was presented by the Naiyyika as an un-
wanted consequence Ior the Vedntin that at liberation the soul
should perceive all objects is a consequence that Rmaka"!ha is
happy to accept. It is consistent with the doctrine oI his tradition
that at liberation the soul`s power oI cognition comes to encompass
all objects (sarvavi#ava). That the soul becomes omniscient (sarva-
fa) at liberation is held also by Vednta; but this is only a superIi-
cial overlap between the traditions, since knowing everything in
Vednta, unlike in aivism, is compatible with knowing no objects
at all.
Why, then, does Rmaka"!ha have to conIront the problem oI
non-perception oI objects at all? The answer is that though the SelI,
Ior him, knows objects in liberation, there are times when it does
not. This is brought up against Rmaka"!ha aIter he has stated that
the nature oI the SelI is permanently to illuminate (NPP ad 1.6ab
svarpa& hv asv!rthaprak!!tmakatven!vibhinnarpa& sarvad! vikalp!t"
ta& prak!ata itv uktam. tarhi katha& na prak!avatv artham? tasv!sanni-
dh!n!t. sannihitaprak!ako hi katham asannihita& prak!avet.
|Siddhntin:| For I have taught that the SelI`s nature shines Iorth beyond
conceptualization, permanently unbroken as that which maniIests objects.
|Objection:| In that case how is it that it |sometimes| does not reveal ob-
jects? |Siddhntin:| Because they are not present. For how can |something
which is by nature| a revealer oI what is present reveal what is not present.
This reminds us oI Ma"(ana`s examples oI Iire and reIlective
surIaces, which only aIIect objects that are brought into their pres-
ence. Ma"(ana`s usage oI the word upanta conveyed what Rma-
ka"!ha conveys here with sannihita. The point is that the nature oI
the SelI/Iire/reIlective surIaces remains unchanged whether or not
they are revealing objects. All that varies is the presence or absence
oI objects within their range. Rmaka"!ha leaves his response at
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 107
that and does not mention the necessity oI the SelI`s association
with sense Iaculties, as Ma"(ana did. This means that he is not
open to an objection that one could level at Ma"(ana: iI the soul
can only perceive objects when resting in a body, in what sense
does its sentience belong to it innately? But it leaves him open to
the objection that, since the SelI is all-pervading, all objects should
be present to it, so its occasional non-perception is mysterious. This
objection is not put to him here, as it is not immediately relevant to
the context. Rmaka"!ha is here discussing with a Buddhist op-
ponent who is seeking to establish that cognition`s occasional non-
perception oI objects entails a break in its nature. For the Buddhist
to point to the SelI`s all-pervasion as a reason Ior it always perceiv-
ing all objects would not be in his interest, as it would, iI anything,
be a reason Ior cognition`s unchanging nature. Elsewhere
ka"!ha has to explain why, given that all souls are all-pervading,
there is no bhogasa&kara, mixing up oI experiences. It does not
happen that everyone experiences everyone else`s experiences,
he replies, because they are kept separate by diIIerent people`s
karman. Perhaps he would use a similar strategy to explain why
only certain objects at certain times are perceived despite souls` all-

BeIore leaving Ma"(ana and turning to a&kara we will look at
one more passage Irom the BSi. An opponent has argued that
Brahman can be transIormed on the model oI clay. Ma"(ana re-
sponds that iI it were completely transIormed into something else it
would lose its eternality; and iI only a part oI it were transIormed
then, owing to having parts, it would lose its eternality and its one-
ness (ekatva).
He continues (19,1921):

NPP ad v. 55 (95,813).
Alternatively he could adduce the necessity oI sense Iaculties while
claiming (as he does at KV ad 2.23c24b |52,23|) that they are not causes oI
cognition, but merely its revealers (vvafaka).
BSi 19,1719: satvam, tath!pi tu vad viuddham !tmarpa& tasv!bh!v!t
sarv!tman! pari$at!v anitvatvam, ekadeapari$atau s!vavavatv!n nitvatvam
ekatva& ca vv!hanvete.
tad etad viuddhatva& nitvatvam ekatva& c!k!akalpe brahma$v ava-
kalpate kalpit!vacchede;
apv !k!am anavacchinnam
astv eva.
ThereIore this purity, eternality and oneness are possible in/oI a Brahman
that resembles space (i.e., is untransIormable), |and| that has |merely| pos-
tulated delimitations. Although the sky has postulated delimitations (e.g.,
inside a pot) it actually exists as undelimited.
So Ior Ma"(ana any seeming divisions oI cognition are merely
imagined (kalpita), just as we imagine the space in a pot to be diI-
Ierent Irom the space elsewhere. The reason I quote this is that
Rmaka"!ha also writes that divisions oI cognition are kalpita, but
he explains this postulation diIIerently (MV, vidv!p!da, introduc-
ing 35bd):
eva& ca f!naabdena bhavat!& vadv atra gr!hak!tmasa&vid eva vi-
vak#it! tad!siddho hetu', tatrotpattvapavargavo' sa&vedan!bh!v!d vuga-
patpratibh!sa iva kramapratibh!se `pi pramevabhedena gha%af!n!di-
kalpitatv!d iti.
And thus iI by the word f!na you intend here actually (eva) perceiving cog-
then the logical reason is unproved;
because we do not experience
(sa&vedan!bh!v!t) rising and ceasing in that |perceiving cognition|, be-
cause the diIIerence between a cognition oI a pot and other |cognitions|
(gha%af!n!dibhedasva) is |Ialsely| imagined (kalpita) on the basis oI a
diIIerence oI object oI knowledge (prameva), even in the sequential ap-
pearance |oI cognition|, just like in its appearance at one time.

avakalpate kalpit!vacchede; em. Vetter; the edition punctuates not here but
aIter avakalpate.
kalpit!vacchedam em. Vetter; `kalpit!vacchedam ed.
bhedasva the three Kashmiri MSS; bhedasv!tra ed.
Literally, 'cognition, whose nature is the perceiver.
The logical reason here is the claim that we experience the rise and passing
away oI f!na (and the conclusion is that f!na is non-eternal).
The main claim oI this sentence is that cognition is unitary over a sequence
oI time, but because oI its multiplicity oI objects we take it to be plural itselI.
The reason that Rmaka"!ha mentions here cognition at one point oI time is
(as is clear Irom other passages oI his) that in that case the Buddhist agrees that
cognition is single even iI it takes in more than one object. The point oI the
comparison is to illustrate that a plurality oI objects does not have to mean a
plurality oI cognitions.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 109
The issue at this point oI the text is a diIIerence oI opinion
between Rmaka"!ha and his Buddhist opponent over the correct
way to characterize a sequence in which a cognition oI a pot, say, is
Iollowed by a sensation in my Ioot, which in turn gives way to a
sensation in my head and so on. The Buddhist thinks that separate
cognitions are coming into being and passing away, but, Ior Rma-
ka"!ha, to see these as separate cognitions is mistaken. He explains
the mistake as extrapolation Irom a diIIerence oI objects oI cogni-
tion to a diIIerence oI cognition itselI.
But surely transitory sensations (vedan!) and passing thoughts
(cittavtti) are cognitions, not objects oI cognition. Rmaka"!ha`s
response, which can be gathered Irom scattered parts oI his writ-
is to split such phenomena into perceiving cognition (gr!ha-
k!tmasa&vit), which is permanent, and its objects the 'Ieel oI
the sensation, the content oI the thought which are transitory and
changing. The Iormer, a Ilow oI perceiving light that is nothing
other than the SelI, shines Iorth constantly the same; the sensations
and thoughts that rise and cease are merely objects oI this cogni-
tion. How about a seemingly transitory act oI cognition that could
be verbalized as, Ior example, 'I see a pot? Rmaka"!ha admits
that determinative cognitions (adhvavas!va, savikalpakaf!na) are
indeed distinct and changing.
But they occur in (and are produced
by) the Buddhi, not the SelI, and hence do not aIIect its unchanging
nature. Since the Buddhi is evolved Irom an unconscious Ur-matter,
they are insentient. In relation to perceiving cognition (i.e., the
SelI) they are objects oI cognition (bhogva, sa&vedva, gr!hva).

See Watson 2006: 349382.
Thus part oI Rmaka"!ha`s response to how cognition can be eternal when
transitory and distinct instances oI it seem to be a basic Iact oI experience is to
recognize two kinds oI f!na, one eternal and one changing. A similar strategy
was much used in later Vednta. The Tattvapradpik!, Ior example, distin-
guishes svarpaf!na and vie#af!na, the Iormer eternal but the latter not (see,
e.g., p. 24). I have not come across such an explicit distinction between two
kinds oI f!na in the three Vedntin authors looked at in this article.
This point was made on page 93 above, and evidence Ior Rmaka"!ha
holding such a view was given in Iootnote 19.
Hence all plurality exists on the object side oI the gr!hvagr!haka
Ma"(ana`s explanation oI why we regard a cognition oI blue in
one moment as being a separate thing Irom a cognition oI yellow in
the next is to compare cognition with space: objects at certain
points in space lead us to say things like, 'the space within the
pot, as though space were divided up, but in Iact it is undivided.
The implication is that objects oI cognition lead us to regard cog-
nition as divided, which, as we have just seen, is Rmaka"!ha`s
position. But Ior Rmaka"!ha the plurality oI objects is real, thus
giving him a hook on which to hang our (or Buddhism`s, Nyya
Vaie$ika`s etc.) imagined plurality oI cognitions. For Ma"(ana, by
contrast, there is no real plurality oI objects, so to point to the pot
that leads us to say, 'the space within the pot, is an explanation
which begs Iurther explanation.
4.3 0a%kara
Two passages by a&kara will be looked at.
In the Iirst, Irom his
commentary on the Brahmastra, a S#khya opponent objects that
iI f!na were eternal then Ior an agent to carry out autonomously
the action oI cognition (as indicated by an expression such as 'he
cognizes) would be impossible.
a&kara responds that although
the sun has heat and light continuously, we attribute autonomy
in burning and shining to it, in such expressions as 'it burns, 'it
The S#khya maintains that we only say oI the sun that it

Unlike Ma"(ana, a&kara is not quoted by Rmaka"!ha. Indeed Sanderson
(1985: 210, n. 41) has pointed out that no Kashmirian writer in the period up to
and including Jayaratha (end oI 12th or beginning oI 13th century) betrays Ia-
miliarity with a&kara. He is thus not so likely to have been an inIluence on
Rmaka"!ha`s thinking as Ma"(ana. But Rmaka"!ha`s views on this subject
bear no closer resemblance to the passages oI Ma"(ana`s presented above than
to the passages oI a&kara`s presented below. Hence I include the latter.
!!karabh!#va ad 1.1.5 (p. 170): f!nanitvatve f!navi#ava' sv!tantrva-
vvapadeo nopapadvata iti cet.
na, pratatau#$vaprak!e `pi savitari dahati prak!avatti sv!tantrvavvapa-
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 111
burns or shines when it is related to objects that are burnt or il-
luminated; so it would make no sense to say oI Brahman that it
cognizes when it has no relation with objects oI cognition prior to
the creation oI the world.
a&kara responds that we do in Iact say
'the sun shines even iI there are no objects being illuminated, so
there is also no problem in saying 'Brahman sees even in the ab-
sence oI objects seen.

We can see that a&kara likens cognition to the sun`s shining
here because oI two Ieatures oI the latter: although the shining is
eternal, or constant, it is an action ascribable to an autonomous
subject; and it is one that continues uninterruptedly even when no
objects are there. It illustrates how the same two Ieatures could
exist in cognition. The sun and lights are also important compari-
sons Ior Rmaka"!ha in his justiIication oI the eternality oI cogni-
tion; and he too uses them to justiIy that cognition`s nature does
not change even when no objects are there. Countless examples
could be given oI Rmaka"!ha`s usage oI the imagery oI light. Here
is just one (NPP ad 1.6ab |26,47|):
sannihit!rthaprak!akatva& hv !tmana' svabh!va' pradp!der iva tath!nu-
bhav!t siddha'. tath! hi vo va' sannihito `rthas ta& ta& svaaktvaiva pra-
k!avann avam anubhvate.
For the nature oI the SelI, like that oI lights and such like, is established
to be the illuminating oI objects that are present, because we experience it
in that way. To explain Iurther, the |SelI| is experienced as illuminating
through its own power alone whatever objects are present.
The point that cognition`s nature does not change when no ob-
jects are there came up earlier, when Ma"(ana`s Naiyyika charged
that iI something is not cognizing objects it cannot be oI the nature

nanu savitur d!hvaprak!vasa&voge sati dahati prak!avatti vvapadea'
sv!t, na tu brahma$a' pr!g utpatter f!nakarmasa&vogo `stti vi#amo d#"
na, asatv api karma$i savit! prak!ata iti karttvavvapadeadaran!t.
evam asatv api f!nakarma$i brahma$a' 'tad aik#ata iti karttvavvapadeopa-
patter na vai#amvam.
oI cognition. As a&kara here, Ma"(ana there adduced the ex-
amples oI Iire and light. From the passage oI Rmaka"!ha`s cited
there (p. 28), as well as the one given here, his position can be seen
to be that the SelI`s power oI illumination shines Iorth even when
no objects are there, in that even then its nature is to illuminate
whatever is present. The SelI`s nature never changes; all that varies
is the presence or absence oI objects.
II the SelI/cognition is to remain always the same whether
perceiving objects or not, then it must be completely unmodiIied by
objects. II they leave any mark on it, or condition its arising, it will
be diIIerent when not perceiving objects. Thus Rmaka"!ha writes
(NPP ad 1.6ab |26,1013|):
atha kas tasva sannihiten!rthenopak!ra' kta', na kacit. katha& tarhi tam
eva prak!avati? tath!svabh!vatv!d itv uktam, upak!re `pi tadasvabh!va-
sva prak!akatv!d#%e'.
|Siddhntin:| II |you ask| what beneIit is produced Ior |cognition| by the
object present, |we say| none at all. |Opponent:| Why then does it reveal
only the |object that is present|? |Siddhntin:| I have already said that it is
because its nature is thus, because we do not Iind that things which do not
have as their nature |to reveal what is present| can illuminate even iI there is
beneIit |Irom the object|.
Rmaka"!ha is quite Iirm that objects have no eIIect on cogni-
tion. Thus he avoids comparing the SelI to crystals or mirrors as
Ma"(ana did earlier. For there the reIlective substance is modiIied
to the extent that an image appears on its surIace. But these ex-
amples at least have the advantage oI illustrating how the SelI
registers the presence oI an object. Rmaka"!ha`s position invites
the question that the Buddhist opponent puts to him here: what is it
that links cognition to the particular object it is perceiving? Rma-
ka"!ha`s reply is: simply that that object is present, and that the
SelI`s nature is to reveal what is present.

* * *

Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 113
In a&kara`s commentary on Bhad!ra$vaka-Upani#ad (BUBh)
an opponent objects that surely we know that in deep sleep
the SelI does not see.
a&kara replies that just as Iire`s heat cannot
cease while the Iire is there, so the seer`s seeing cannot cease while
the seer is there, and the seer is eternal.
The opponent responds
that since seeing is a speciIic action carried out by an agent oI see-
ing it cannot be something that never ceases.
When a&kara ad-
duces scripture the opponent replies that even hundreds oI scrip-
tural statements could not reIute that something created (ktaka) is
a&kara responds in a similar manner to how he did in
the !!karabh!#va passage above, namely by comparing seeing to
the sun`s property oI illuminating. When the sun illuminates an
object it is not that we regard it as having been non-illuminative
prior to that and becoming illuminative only when an object ap-
pears; rather we regard it as having shone Iorth all along regardless
oI whether objects are there or not.

The opponent points to the Iact that the tc suIIix in the word
dra#%! indicates that it is an agent oI transitory acts oI seeing, just
like the words chett!, bhett! and gant!, a cutter, a splitter and a

na hi dra#%ur d#%er viparilopo vidvate `vin!itv!t. na tu tad dvitvam asti
tato `nvad vibhakta& vat pavet.
nanv eva& na pavatti su#upte f!nma', vato na cak#ur v! mano v!
darane kara$a& vv!ptam asti. vv!pte#u hi daranarava$!di#u pavatti
vvavah!ro bhavati $otti v!. na ca vv!pt!ni kara$!ni pav!ma'. tasm!n na
pavatv ev!vam.
vath!gner au#$va& v!vadagnibh!vi, tath!va& c!tm! dra#%!vin!, ato
`vin!itv!d !tmano d#%ir apv avin!in, v!vaddra#%bh!vin hi s!.
nanu viprati#iddham idam abhidhvate dra#%u' s! d#%i', na viparilupvata
iti ca. d#%i ca dra#%r! krivate. d#%ikarttv!d dhi dra#%etv ucvate. krivam!$! ca
dra#%r! d#%ir na viparilupvata iti c!akva& vaktum.
na, vacanasva f!pakatv!t. na hi nv!vapr!pto vin!a' ktakasva vacana-
aten!pi v!ravitu& akvate, vacanasva vath!pr!pt!rthaf!pakatv!t.
nai#a do#a', !ditv!diprak!akatvavad daranopapatte'. vath!ditv!davo
nitvaprak!asvabh!v! eva santa' sv!bh!vikena nitvenaiva prak!ena pra-
k!avanti. na hv aprak!!tm!na' santa' prak!a& kurvanta' prak!avanttv
ucvante, ki& tarhi svabh!venaiva nitvena prak!ena. tath!vam apv !tm!vipari-
luptasvabh!vav! d#%v! nitvav! dra#%etv ucvate.
goer denote agents oI transitory acts oI cutting, splitting and go-
a&kara responds by pointing out that we also have the word
The implication is that in that case the tc suIIix de-
notes an agent oI an action, prak!a, that is not transitory. Just as
there, so also in the case oI dra#%!. Hence the SelI is a seer even in
deep sleep.
Rmaka"!ha is also explicit that the SelI`s cognition is uninter-
rupted even in deep sleep:

With regard to that question (tatra), this stable shining Iorth, which is ever-
present (sarvadaiva), is established Ior every person through selI-experi-
ence, not sensing a division oI its own nature even though its delimiters,
namely objects, do diIIer; having no sense oI its non-existence beIore it
|comes into being| or non-existence aIter it is destroyed, even in all three
even though experiencing the rise and Iall oI many thoughts due to
the various means oI knowledge etc., its experience oI the stability oI the
perceiver oI those |thoughts| unshaken;
its radiance uninterrupted even be-
tween thoughts; its selI-consciousness unbroken even in deep sleep and
(Iainting or coma); being conveyed by the word SelI` because it is con-
stantly perceived as the shining Iorth oI oneselI/itselI. So what is the need oI
any other means oI proving it?

nanv anitvakriv!kartvi#ava eva tcpratvav!ntasva abdasva pravogo d#%o
vath! chett! bhett! ganteti, tath! dra#%etv atr!pti cet.
na, prak!aviteti d#%atv!t.
NPP ad 1.5 (14,29): tatr!va& sthirarpa' prak!a' sarvadaiva gr!hvo-
p!dhibhede `pv an!sv!ditasv!tmabheda', k!latrave `pi tirasktasvagatapr!g-
abh!vapradhva&s!bh!va', n!n!vidhapram!$!dvanekacittavttvudavavvava-
sa&vedane `pv akampitatadgr!hakasthairvavedana', vttvantar!le#v apv avi-
luptafvoti', su#upt!d!v apv akha$(i tatsvasa&vit, satatam eva svaprak!atvena
gamvatv!d !tmapadapratip!dva' pratipuru#a& svasa&vedanasiddha', iti kim
atr!nvena s!dhanena. The evidence Ior the exact Iorm in which I have quoted
this passage the readings oI two editions, two manuscripts and three parallel
passages is given in Watson 2006: 220221.
I.e., we never have been nor will we ever be aware oI a moment in which
our consciousness is yet to exist or has ceased to exist. Yet iI, as the Buddhist
claims, cognition not only is, but also appears to us as, momentary, we would
expect some awareness oI these two kinds oI non-existence. We would Ieel con-
stantly new, as though what we were in the last moment had just ceased to exist.
When I perceive something, Ior example, it may cause my thinking to go
oII in a diIIerent direction, but however varied my thoughts I never lose a sense
that it is me.
Rmaka$%has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 115
It can be seen that the equating oI SelI and cognition, and the con-
sequent deIence oI the eternality oI cognition, as Iound in Rma-
ka"!ha, were core constituents oI the Vednta oI Ma"(ana and
a&kara. Many oI the sub-issues that we Iind in Rmaka"!ha, such
as the question oI how something can be regarded as oI the nature
oI cognition when it is not cognizing objects, are not discussed in
any detail by Rmaka"!ha`s Iather, his closest inIluence, or in other
(surviving) earlier aiva texts, but they are in Vednta. As Rma-
ka"!ha attempts to increase the standing oI aiva Siddhnta by
making it more oI a presence in the logical discourse between the
philosophical traditions, it seems that Vednta, a tradition to which
he is so strongly opposed on many other issues, inIluences him in
discussions centering on the issue oI cognition`s eternality.
the Iact that they use the same word, f!na, to denote the nature oI
the SelI, and that both claim f!na to be eternal, disguises deeper
diIIerences; f!na in Vednta does not mean quite the same thing
as it does in aivism.
There is more emphasis in Vednta on contentless, objectless
f!na, like the sun shining out into empty space, than in aivism.
Rmaka"!ha appeals to this notion in order to explain how in deep
sleep or other periods oI non-perception the SelI`s nature contin-
ues. But he deIines the SelI in terms oI more active and object-
oriented cognition. The way that cognition in Vednta is Irequently
compared to space, and is said to do nothing at all, makes it resem-
ble the pure-witness caitanva oI the S#khyas. The state oI resting
in such caitanva is regarded by Rmaka"!ha, as we saw, as cogni-
tionless (f!narahita); thus only Iools, he maintains, would strive
to attain it. The implication is that Ior Rmaka"!ha the soul in lib-
eration continues to have the kind oI f!na that the S#khyas
assign to the Buddhi. This is very diIIerent Irom the empty and

For more on how Rmaka"!ha modiIies aiva Siddhnta in order to make
it a more suitable participant in the inter-tradition philosophical discourse, see
Watson 2006: 7489 and 100103.
inactive f!na oI the Vedntins. We saw that Ma"(ana at one point
compared the SelI to a crystal or mirror. Such entities are too pas-
sive to be suitable comparisons Ior Rmaka"!ha; Ior him the SelI is
something that pours Iorth.
In the passage Irom the NPP summarized at the beginning oI
this article a Naiyyika and a Vaie$ika opponent attempt in diIIer-
ent ways to argue that the SelI exists as a separate entity beyond
cognition (vif!na). The Buddhist shows that those things that the
SelI is supposedly needed to explain can be explained by cognition
alone. Rmaka"!ha seems silently to agree with the Buddhist as he
allows him to deIeat the tmavdin arguments. The Buddhist de-
Iines what he means by cognition as that which is engaged in per-
ceiving objects (arthaprak!aka), that which is a perceiver by na-
ture (gr!hakarpa), and that which is a Iact oI experience (anu-
bhavasiddha). Rmaka"!ha responds that that is precisely what he
means by the SelI. Even allowing Ior this move being partly a rhe-
torical device, it also reIlects that what Rmaka"!ha means by the
cognition that is the nature oI the SelI is something closer to the
Buddhists` vif!na than to the ether-like f!na oI the Vedntins.
He is redeIining the SelI not as the unengaged nirvimara cognition
oI the Vedntins, but as the process oI apprehension oI objects that
we all experience in every moment, i.e., precisely that which is the
object oI Buddhist analysis. He analyzes it diIIerently Irom Bud-
dhism, but he sees himselI as talking about the same thing.

He regards the shining Iorth oI this cognition as stable, not as
ceasing and rising in each moment. At the core oI the Ilow oI cog-
nition, which is always changing on the side oI its objects, is its
gr!haka nature, dynamic but constant. Rmaka"!ha`s view here
seems to come not Irom S#khya or Vednta but Irom addressing
himselI to Buddhism. He tries to show that even iI we deny, in the
manner oI Buddhism, an agent oI cognition (f!t) over and above

My thoughts on this matter were clariIied and stimulated by a conversation
with Alexis Sanderson in July 2003 aIter I had given a preliminary version oI
this paper to him and a small audience in All Souls, OxIord.
Rmaka!"has Concept of Unchanging Cognition 117
cognition, on the grounds that we cannot experience such a sepa-
rate dharmin over and above cognition, we are still leIt with the
SelI as the constant subject-pole oI that cognition. Seeing Bud-
dhism as the motor driving Rmaka!"ha`s thinking here is more
historically plausible given that Buddhism was more established in
Kashmir in his time than S#khya or Vednta. But the equating oI
SelI and cognition had occurred in aivism beIore Rmaka!"ha
(albeit not with nearly as much elaboration oI detail); and that
Rmaka!"ha`s SelI is more dynamic than that oI the Vedntins is
due to inIluence not only Irom Buddhism but also Irom his own
tradition, which held that the SelI is in essence a doer as much as it
is a knower, and that these two powers are inextricably linked.
Thus this paper needs to be supplemented by one which examines
how much oI Rmaka!"ha`s thinking on this issue can be seen to be
a natural development oI that Iound in earlier aiva texts.

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