[Advaita-l] Different schools of thought on bhrAnti

Jay Nelamangala jay at r-c-i.com
Thu Jun 12 10:55:07 CDT 2003

The fact that wrong knowledge presents the unreal as real and the
real as unreal is implicit in the very conception of wrong knowledge.
Wrong knowledge necessarily presupposes the correct knowledge
of the things that make wrong knowledge possible.

Different schools of thought have explained  "wrong knowledge" differently.
We will examine each one of them.

A) NyAya-vaishEshikas call it,  "anyathA-khyAti".  They say that unreal can 
not be seen, so, the thing that is presented in illusion is not unreal.
This means that the thing presented is real.  But the thing presented,
say silver, is not at the same place occupied by shell.  This means it must
be elsewhere, say,  in a silver shop.  So,  two ideas are presented :

1) That which is presented by wrong knowledge is not given
2) That which is presented by wrong knowledge has its existence some
where else.

This is rejected because, the second idea is irrelevant to the fact of wrong

B) The mAdhyamika starts from the idea that the thing, say silver,
presented by wrong knowledge does not exist and in the interest of
shoonya-vAda, concludes from this that all that is presented by wrong
knowledge including 'this' in its relation to space and time is unreal.
For this reason,  he calls wrong knowledge as "asat-khyAti".

    His idea is that if some one of the things that are presented by wrong
knowledge is unreal,  then all that is presented is unreal.  

This is clearly wrong and therefore it is rejected,  because
wrong knowledge necessarily presupposes the right experience of real things.
Further, even the Madhyamika has to admit that what appears in 
illusion is presented as real at least in so far as the illusion continues.
This is to admit tacitly that wrong knowledge presents the non-existent
as existent and the existent as non-existent.

C) The vijnAna-vAdin holds that what we see in illusion is only the 
idea of silver and this idea for the time being appears to be an outside
entity and to imply this calls wrong knowledge as "AtmakhyAti"

This is to admit that which is unreal is presented as real in illusion,
for idea as an outside entity is unreal and it is given in illusion as real.
D) The school of prAbhAkara denies wrong knowledge and holds that
every piece of knowledge is faithful to the object as it is given.
Yet he has to account for the usage of illusion.  So they say that
the so called wrong knowledge consists of two instances of knowledge.

For example, in the knowledge "this is silver"   "this" is presented
and "silver" is remembered.   "This" is perception and "silver" is memory
So, they are different instances of knowledge.
But owing to something wrong in the percipient, the difference between
them is not apprehended.  On account of this omission, there is wrong
usage, "This is silver".  

Against this view,  we may note that every usage, as a rule, presupposes
the corresponding idea.  If the idea is wrong, then the usage is wrong.
If the idea is right, then the usage is right..

If "this is silver" is a wrong usage,  then it necessarily follows that the
knowledge which causes that usage,  is wrong.  Unless the two
instances of knowledge that "this is silver"  is said to involve are apprehended
as identical, there can not be the usage, "this is silver".  Therefore,
the two instances of knowledge are unreal as identical and their unreal
identity is presented as real by the knowledge that causes the wrong knowledge
"this is silver".

E)   The position of advaita is this.  The silver that is presented by wrong 
knowledge is not real,  because it is sublated.  It is not unreal, because it is
known.  Therefore it is sadasadvilakshaNa.  

Against this position, we may note that the silver that is sadasadvilakshaNa
is unreal as normal silver,  but it is presented as normal by the wrong 
knowledge "this is silver".

F) The position of vishishTAdvaita is this.  The so called wrong knowledge
presents silver in the place of a shell, because of the similarity between the 
two,  a shell and silver.  Similarity implies actual presence of the thing that
is similar.  That silver is similar to a shell means that there is silver in shell.
In the case of the so-called wrong knowledge, the defective sense organ
apprehends only silver but not the shell and there follows the knowledge
"this is silver".   This knowledge is true, because that which it presents
is actually given.  But the silver that is given is practically not useful,
and for this reason the knoweldge is called wrong.  The knowledge
"this is shell" is right,  because the shell that is presented is useful as shell.

Against this position, we may note that the silver that is presented by
wrong knowledge is unreal as useful, but it is presented as useful.
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