[Advaita-l] dvaita and advaita on pramA ( Right knowledge)
jay at r-c-i.com
Thu Jun 12 12:44:12 CDT 2003
dvaita position is "yathArtham pramANam" pramA is that knowledge which
grasps its object as it is.
To say that pramA grasps its object as it is
is only a re-statement of the fact that truth is svataha. It simply stands
for the idea that if knowledge is true, then it grasps its object as it is.
So, in this case we do not start from the idea that knowledge grasps the
object as it is and then arrive at the notion that the knowledge is pramA.
On the strength of the fact that truth is svataha, we have the idea that the
knowledge, in question, is true and this means that the knowledge grasps
the object as it is.
advaita position is that : pramA is the knowledge of an object which is not
In defence of advaita, it may be said that to say that pramA is
the knowledge of an object that is not sublated is a re-statement
of the fact that truth is svataha. But it is irrelevant. The function of
knowledge is to present its object. To say that it is true is to admit
that it presents its object as it is. It does not imply any other
character of the object. So to define pramA by the unsublated
character of the object is unwarranted.
Further, to explain pramA as yathArtha has no significance in advaita.
Advaita believes in two types of objects : vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika.
(For those of you who don't know : prAtibhAsika is that which exists
only during the time of its apprehension. Ex: silver superimposed on shell.
vyAvahArika is that which is sublated by the knowledge of Brahman,
vyAvahArika is empirical and that which is in acoordance with usage)
Supposing that knowledge grasps the vyAvahArika as vyAvahArika, and
the prAtibhAsika as prAtibhAsika, we have to admit that it is true.
But according to advaita, at the time of knowledge, the object is not
known as vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika. That the object is either, is
only a later determination.
The prAtibhAsika is that which is sublated by the knowledge that occurs
to beings like ourselves; and the vyAvahArika is that which is sublated
by the knowledge that apprehends Brahman as akhanda.
It is obvious that no knowledge apprehends its object either as
prAtibhAsika or as vyAvahArika and there can be no knowledge that can
be regarded as yathArtha. Further, even granting the validity of the
advaita definition of pramA, as that knowledge the object of which is not
sublated, one sees that it is inconsistent with the main position of advaita.
According to advaita, there is no object that is not sublated and
consistently with this position there can be no pramA in this system.
Further, that the prAtibhAsika and vyAvahArika are sublated needs a careful
If the prAtibhAsika is really an object, then it can not be sublated and if it is
sublated, then it can not be an object. By sublation, advaita means complete
disappearance of the object in view. This is inconsistent with experience.
There is nothing that disappears completely if anything is really given.
A given thing can only be destroyed, but not completely. A jar is a given thing.
It can be broken, but pieces will remain.
So, that there is prAthibhAsika and that it is sublated, are unwarranted.
Similarly, that something is vyAvahArika because it is sublated by the
knowledge that Brahman is akhanda is only an assumption.
First of all, Brahman is akhanda - partless and attributeless - can not
itself be justified. Even supposing that it is justfied, and it is real,
there can be no knowledge of it. If there can be the knowledge of it,
then Brahman ceases to be akhanda, because as the object of knowledge
Brahman is mithyA according to advaita.
If the knowledge of Brahman as akhanda is not justified, then that this
knowledge sublates something, and this something is vyAvahArika can
never be justified. So, the advaita distinctions as pAramArthika,
vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika are not valid, and the definition of
pramA based on these distinctions is not correct.
To deny pramA as such is impossible, because the denial itself
presupposes that the knowledge of the denial is true. Further that the
vyAvahArika is sublated by the knowledge of Brahman as akhanda
is inconsistent with the advaita position that pramANya is svataha.
According to this position, truth is the property of knowledge,
the object of which is not sublated. So, the theory that the
object of knowledge is vyAvahArika makes the conception of pramA,
the conception of pramANa, the doctrine of pramANya being svataha,
and with them the conception of Veda and vEdAnta impossible.
If pramA cannot be explained, there can be no conception of
pramANa because, pramANa is said to be the proximate cause of
pramA. Without pramA and pramANa there can be no problem of
pramANya (truth). Without them, the Veda as pramANa and
vEdAnta as philosophy loose their significance.
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