“Self-knowledge and Object-knowledge” by Shankar Rajaraman

Author: Abhinavagupta
Source: Pratyabhijñāvimarśinī, last verse under 4.1.18

आत्मानमनभिज्ञाय विवेक्तुं योऽन्यदिच्छति ।
तेन भौतेन किं वाच्यं प्रश्नेऽस्मिन् को भवानिति ॥


ātmānamanabhijñāya vivektuṃ yo’nyadicchati |
tena bhautena kiṃ vācyaṃ praśne’smin ko bhavāniti ||

He that desires to ponder on the nature of something else without understanding the Self, what will such a person, shrouded in illusory matter, answer when posed this question – “Who are you?”?

Main idea of the verse: It is useless to know everything else without knowing what the Self is.

If one knows the Self, one knows everything else. If one knows everything else other than the Self, what use is such knowledge? Bhaskara Kantha interprets the word “bhauta” as “possessed by a ghost” and uses the metaphor of possession to further explicate the verse’s meaning. Just as a person possessed by a ghost forgets the name given to him by his parents and identifies himself/herself as someone else, so a person in the grip of Shiva’s illusory power forgets his true nature as Shiva-Consciousness and identifies himself/herself in terms of limited personhood, temporality, and spatiality.

– Selection of Verse, Translation and Annotation by Shankar Rajaraman, NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, INDIA.