oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Phenomenology of consciousness in Ādi Śamkara and Edmund Husserl

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



The philosophical investigation of consciousness has a long-standing history in both Indian and Western thought. The conceptual models and analyses that have emerged in one cultural framework may be profitably reviewed in the light of another. In this context, a study of the notion of consciousness in the transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl is not only important as a focus on a remarkable achievement in the context of Western thought, but is also useful for an appreciation of the concern with this question in the Indian philosophical tradition, and especially in the tradition of Advaita Ved?nta of Ādi Śamkara. The starting point for this paper is the belief that phenomenology has a recognizably common face for both these traditions.

This paper investigates the possibility of a parallel notion of consciousness in the transcendental phenomenology of Husserl and the Advaita Ved?nta of Śamkara, with particular emphasis on Husserl's 'Transcendental I' and Śamkara's 'Witness Consciousness' (S?kshi Caitanya). In the process, it explores the phenomenological relevance of the concept of consciousness in Indian philosophy, with special reference to the concept of pure consciousness as one of the essential criteria for any sound theory of knowledge. It more importantly highlights the Advaitic understanding of pure consciousness as one of the major contributions to the field of comparative philosophy that forms a vantage point for cross-cultural comparison. While pointing to significant differences in their respective approaches to understanding the nature of consciousness, the exploration finally unveils the common thesis for both Śamkara and Husserl that 'pure consciousness' is essentially foundational, evidencing and absolute for any epistemic act.

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