Consciousness is not eternal.
It was further maintained by the pûrvapakshin that as consciousness is self-established it has no antecedent non-existence and so on, and that this disproves its having an origin. But this is an attempt to prove something not proved by something else that is equally unproved; comparable to a man blind from birth undertaking to guide another blind man! You have no right to maintain the non-existence of the antecedent non-existence of consciousness on the ground that there is nothing to make us apprehend that non-existence; for there is something to make us apprehend it, viz. consciousness itself!--But how can consciousness at the time when it is, make us apprehend its own previous non-existence which is contradictorily opposed to it?--Consciousness, we rejoin, does not necessarily constitute as its objects only what occupies the same time with itself; were it so it would follow that neither the past nor the future can be the object of consciousness. Or do you mean that there is an absolute rule that the
Antecedent non-existence of consciousness, if proved, must be contemporaneous with consciousness? Have you then, we ask, ever observed this so as to be able to assert an absolute rule? And if it were observed, that would prove the existence of previous non-existence, not its negation!--The fact, however, is that no person in his senses will maintain the contemporaneous existence of consciousness and its own antecedent non-existence. In the case of perceptive knowledge originating from sensation, there is indeed this limitation, that it causes the apprehension of such things only as are actually present at the same time. But this limitation does not extend to cognitions of all kinds, nor to all instruments of knowledge; for we observe that remembrance, inference, and the magical perception of Yogis apprehend such things also as are not present at the time of apprehension. On this very point there rests the relation connecting the means of knowledge with their objects, viz. that the former are not without the latter. This does not mean that the instrument of knowledge is connected with its object in that way that it is not without something that is present at the time of cognition; but rather that the instrument of knowledge is opposed to the falsehood of that special form in which the object presents itself as connected with some place and time.--This disposes also of the contention that remembrance has no external object; for it is observed that remembrance is related to such things also as have perished.--Possibly you will now argue as follows. The antecedent non-existence of consciousness cannot be ascertained by perception, for it is not something present at the time of perception. It further cannot be ascertained by the other means of knowledge, since there is no characteristic mark (linga) on which an inference could be based: for we do not observe any characteristic mark invariably accompanied by the antecedent non-existence of consciousness. Nor do we meet with any scriptural text referring to this antecedent non-existence. Hence, in the absence of any valid instrument of knowledge, the antecedent non-existence of consciousness cannot be established at all.--If, we reply, you thus,
altogether setting aside the force of self-provedness (on which you had relied hitherto), take your stand on the absence of valid means of knowledge, we again must request you to give in; for there is a valid means of knowledge whereby to prove the antecedent non-existence of consciousness, viz. valid non-perception (anupalabdhi).
Moreover, we observe that perceptional knowledge proves its object, be it a jar or something else, to exist only as long as it exists itself, not at all times; we do not, through it, apprehend the antecedent or subsequent existence of the jar. Now this absence of apprehension is due to the fact that consciousness itself is limited in time. If that consciousness which has a jar for its object were itself apprehended as non-limited in time, the object also--the jar--would be apprehended under the same form, i.e. it would be eternal. And if self-established consciousness were eternal, it would be immediately cognised as eternal; but this is not the case. Analogously, if inferential consciousness and other forms of consciousness were apprehended as non-limited in time, they would all of them reveal their objects also as non-limited, and these objects would thus be eternal; for the objects are conform in nature to their respective forms of consciousness.