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cause for the pot. Clay is insentient, but brahman is not. That is why the scripture says, brahman is Consciousness. Because Consciousness alone is absolutely real. Insentient matter is real only from the standpoint of worldly experience. The word 'jnAna' which is used here to define brahman along with the adjuncts 'real' and 'infinite', usually arises in the context of the knower, the object known, or the instrument of knowledge or the act of knowing. The knower is the agent of the act of knowing and so he undergoes a vikAra in the very act of knowing. If brahman were the knower he would be other than what is known and so cannot be infinite. Brahman cannot also be the object known for the same reason. Thus brahman has to be defined only in terms of Knowledge, Consciousness, pure and simple - just as it is Existence, pure and simple. Ordinarily knowledge or consciousness means that through which something is known or shines forth. But here in the definition of brahman it has to mean knowledge itself . It denotes the very consciousness on which is based the entire process of knowing along with the concepts of knower and known. This Consciousness is not material and therefore it is limitless and infinite. The word 'infinite' denies all limitation of space, time and causation. The words 'real' and 'consciousness' not only deny the opposite of these words but also have positive connotations of 'unfailing existence' and 'self-luminous knowledge of objects' - as was remarked in the instance of our understanding darkness of a dark room.
QUESTION: Is it not illogical to talk about a pure contentless consciousness?
No. This is the crux of the matter. In Advaita Vedanta, a book by M.K. Venkatrama Iyer, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1964, there is a beautiful presentation of a possible answer to this question. Take an illustration from the fine arts. From architecture to sculpture, from sculpture to painting, from painting to poetry, from poetry to music, there is a gradual transition from a situation of content-domination to one of form-domination. In architecture brick and mortar occupy a very prominent place. This prominence recedes into the background when the sculptor with his chisel produces a whole saga out of just one piece of stone. In painting there is very little physical content, but there is a substantial amount of form that predominates. In poetry, by mere words one brings a whole bundle of meanings, emotions and expressions. Here matter
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