Nescience cannot be terminated by the simple act of cognising Brahman as the universal self.
The doctrine, again, that Nescience is put an end to by the cognition of Brahman being the Self of all can in no way be upheld; for as bondage is something real it cannot be put an end to by knowledge. How, we ask, can any one assert that bondage--which consists in the experience of pleasure and pain caused by the connexion of souls with bodies of various kind, a connexion springing from good or evil actions--is something false, unreal? And that the cessation of such bondage is to be obtained only through the grace of the highest Self pleased by the devout meditation of the worshipper, we have already explained. As the cognition of universal oneness which you assume rests on a view of things directly contrary to reality, and therefore is false, the only effect it can have is to strengthen the ties of bondage. Moreover, texts such as 'But different is the highest Person' (Bha. Gî. XV, 17), and 'Having known the Self and the Mover as separate' (Svet. Up. I, 6), teach that it is the cognition of Brahman as the inward ruler different from the individual soul, that effects the highest aim of man, i.e. final release. And, further, as that 'bondage-terminating' knowledge which you assume is itself unreal, we should have to look out for another act of cognition to put an end to it.--But may it not be said that this terminating cognition, after having put an end to the whole aggregate of distinctions antagonistic to it, immediately passes away itself, because being of a merely
instantaneous nature?--No, we reply. Since its nature, its origination, and its destruction are all alike fictitious, we have clearly to search for another agency capable of destroying that avidyâ which is the cause of the fiction of its destruction!--Let us then say that the essential nature of Brahman itself is the destruction of that cognition!--From this it would follow, we reply, that such 'terminating' knowledge would not arise at all; for that the destruction of what is something permanent can clearly not originate!--Who moreover should, according to you, be the cognising subject in a cognition which has for its object the negation of everything that is different from Brahman?--That cognising subject is himself something fictitiously superimposed on Brahman!--This may not be, we reply: he himself would in that case be something to be negatived, and hence an object of the 'terminating' cognition; he could not therefore be the subject of cognition!--Well, then, let us assume that the essential nature of Brahman itself is the cognising subject!--Do you mean,we ask in reply, that Brahman's being the knowing subject in that 'terminating' cognition belongs to Brahman's essential nature, or that it is something fictitiously superimposed on Brahman? In the latter case that superimposition and the Nescience founded on it would persist, because they would not be objects of the terminating cognition, and if a further terminating act of knowledge were assumed, that also would possess a triple aspect (viz. knowledge, object known, and subject knowing), and we thus should be led to assume an infinite series of knowing subjects. If, on the other band, the essential nature of Brahman itself constitutes the knowing subject, your view really coincides with the one held by us. 1 And if you should say that the terminating knowledge itself and the knowing subject in it are things separate from Brahman and themselves contained in the sphere of what is to be terminated by that knowledge, your statement would be no less absurd than if you were to say 'everything on the surface of the earth has been cut
down by Devadatta with one stroke'--meaning thereby that Devadatta himself and the action of cutting down are comprised among the things cut down!--The second alternative, on the other hand--according to which the knowing subject is not Brahman itself, but a knower superimposed upon it--would imply that that subject is the agent in an act of knowledge resulting in his own destruction; and this is impossible since no person aims at destroying himself. And should it be said that the destruction of the knowing agent belongs to the very nature of Brahman itself 1, it would follow that we can assume neither plurality nor the erroneous view of plurality, nor avidyâ as the root of that erroneous view.--All this confirms our theory, viz. that since bondage springs from agnâna in the form of an eternal stream of karman, it can be destroyed only through knowledge of the kind maintained by us. Such knowledge is to be attained only through the due daily performance of religious duties as prescribed for a man's caste and âsrama, such performance being sanctified by the accompanying thought of the true nature of the Self, and having the character of propitiation of the highest Person. Now, that mere works produce limited and non-permanent results only, and that on the other hand works not aiming at an immediate result but meant to please the highest Person, bring about knowledge of the character of devout meditation, and thereby the unlimited and permanent result of the intuition of Brahman being the Self of all--these are points not to be known without an insight into the nature of works, and hence, without this, the attitude described--which is preceded by the abandonment of mere works--cannot be reached. For these reasons the enquiry into Brahman has to be entered upon after the enquiry into the nature of works.