This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Citta: Substance versus flux

Anil Kumar Tewari — Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

The aura of Indian philosophical thinking revolves round the concept of citta, i.e., consciousness. Since the idea of attaining liberation from suffering is taken to be central to human existence in the Indian tradition, and since consciousness is inevitably vital to this soteriological human enterprise, classical Indian thinkers are naturally driven to delve into the mysterious nature of consciousness as the underlying force behind all activities.We may categorize the concept of consciousness in the Indian tradition chiefly under four groups: 1) as a substance (Vedanta); 2) as a quality of a substance: material (Caravaka) or spiritual (Nyaya & Vaisheshika); 3) as a stream consisting of distinct fleeting conscious states (Buddhism); and 4) as an illusory phenomenon (annihilationism). All theories of consciousness central to the philosophical discussions can be accommodated under any of these four types. Barring the fourth that denies the very reality of the phenomenon we can put the rest of the theories under two broad categories, namely, substantive and non-substantive. While the substantive theory holds that consciousness is either itself a substance or based on something substantive and enduring, the non-substantive theory does not believe in anything that endures across time. This paper aims at exploring these two understandably paradoxical views with regard to consciousness in the Indian tradition.

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