[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowlede - 32

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 26 10:02:11 CDT 2009

Now I am back in India for six months, we will start our analysis of Vedanta Paribhaasha. The previous parts can be obtained from either from www.advaita.org.uk or www.advaitaforum.org under the title Critical analysis of Vedanta Paribhaasha. We have completed two pramANas, the perception (pratyaksha) and inference (anumaana).  We will wrap up this subject by discussing some odds and ends. 

Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge – 32

Before we close the discussion on perception and inference, few points are of interest. It was stated that perception is direct and immediate. As soon as I open my eyes, I see the object in front of me, if there is sufficient light to illumine the object. Meemamsakaas and Nayyayikaas have theorized that mind goes out to the objects and engulfs the object like the water occupying the field, which leads to the formation of the vRitti or thought of the object. This concept also led to some philosophers to assume that when the senses gather attributes of the object they gather the substantive too. Justification for the latter comes from the fact that attributes are inseparable from their locus, substantives. If I say this is a blue lotus, I cannot separate blueness from lotus although I can see it is blue and it is lotus. This is called avinaabhaava sambandham or inseparable relationship.  This inseparability formed one of the back bones of VishiShTa Advaita
 where visheShaNas or attributes are inseparable from their locus, the object. Hence jiivas and jagat form attributes of the all pervading Lord, and hence they cannot have separate existence from the Lord. It is visheShaNa- sahita advaita where oneness of the Lord includes the multiple jiivas and jagat as part of His glory or vibhuuti. They have organic relation with the Lord, that is anga-angii (parts and the whole) or sheSha-sheShii (dependent-independent) relationship.  He becomes antaryaamin or indweller of the whole universe of objects and beings. He is one (advaita) but his visheShaNas, that include jiivas and jagat, are many –the essence of vishiShTa advaita. According to them, recognition of this fundamental fact is the true knowledge. 

Without going into the merits of this hypothesis, the fundamental fact lies in clearly understanding he visheShaNa-visheShya sambandha, or the relation between the attributes and the substantive, and how exactly the perception of the world of objects occurs. It was stated also in Vedanta ParibhaaSha, following the Meemamsakaa’s position, that mind goes out and engulfs the object and perceives the object through the senses, along with the perception of space and time, without questioning its validity. We have raised this issue in the beginning of our analysis itself, and made a comment that those particular assumptions are not necessary, in order to understand the perceptual process. It is not metaphysics here, as some argue.  These are based on some basic physics that we understand as of today dealing with the mechanics of physiological functions. The analysis of the pramaaNas from advaita perspective remains the same, as shown elaborately in the
 previous discussions, without imposing the above unnecessary assumptions. Here, we highlight some more aspects related to the perceptual process on the same venue. 

>From modern science we now have a better understanding of how the perception occurs. Analysis of perception indicates that what I see is really is not the object but the light that gets reflected by the object.  Most of the time we do not recognize the light that is getting reflected but pay more attention to the object that is reflecting the light.  It is like watching the movie on TV. What we are actually watching is the TV screen with interplay of lights and shades. However our attention is totally immersed on the objectives displayed forgetting the truth that there are no real objects behind them.    Thus perceptual process involves a formation of the image of the object with attributes of the object (such as form, etc) as measured by the senses, as the contents of the image. Hence, it is important to note that we never really ‘see’ the object per sec, but only the image of the light reflected by the object. Recognizing this aspect forms the very
 basis for meditation too, which involves shifting the attention to the light getting reflected by the object-thought than to the contents of the though itself. Here the light that is reflected is the light of consciousness by which the thought is known. The mechanics of the process is the same. Can I shift my attention to the light that is getting reflected from the objects without getting lost in the objects that is reflecting the light? Then again, can I shift my attention to the reflected light of consciousness flashing on the mirror of my mind as I become conscious of each thought? That is the light of all lights, jyotirjyotiH. 

Let us understand the facts without getting lost in the theories. During perception, what we see therefore is only that part of the reflected light that reaches our eyes. We do not see the light that is getting reflected by the back side of the object. This is similar to our seeing only our front side when we stand facing the mirror.  Thus vRitti of thought of the object that forms in the mind is similar to the image of the object as the light that passes through our retina. In same way all other senses operate bringing only that part of the input (shabda, sparsha, ruupa, rasa, gandha; sound, touch, form, taste and smell) that can be sensed by them or that reach them for sensing. The photographic image of the object can never be the same as the original. Some darshanikas have defined pramANam as ‘yathaartham pramANam’, knowledge of what it is. But the fact of the matter is ‘it is yathaa dRisyam pramANam and not yathaartham’, whatever is seen is
 the knowledge of the object, implying ‘whatever it is’ may be different from ‘what is seen’. One can see the implication of this in terms of how errors in perception can arise.  Since what is seen is not necessarily the truth, and the analysis, even scientifically, can easily lead to mithyaa aspect of the objective world, since the truth of the object is never seen. Hence to know the real truth of the objects or the world, scripture alone becomes a pramANa, since we can never see the truth of the world, as all perceptions are perceptions of the images and not the originals.  Perceptual process is similar to the image formation and nothing more. 

If we can gather through the senses the attributes of the object and not their substantive, are we not violating the statement that attributes of the object is inseparable from their substantive? It is not so, because it is the reflected image of the original only.  It is just like the image formation in the mirror where although my form is inseparable from me, I can still see the image of my form in the mirror, although details depends on the quality of the mirror that is forming the image and the other subsidiary factors like the intensity of the light etc. The original attributes remain with the locus while image can still be formed depending on the quality of the medium forming the image that includes the purity of the mind and the capability of the senses (20-20 vision, etc). The analogy forms the basis for understanding that although ananda is one, the reflected anandas can be many, and their quality or intensity depends on the purity of the
 reflecting medium. Thus manushya ananda is one while the ananda of hiranya garbha is 10 to the power of 23 times that of the manushya ananda. The original is only one but the reflections and their qualities are different, says the Upanishad.  sa yaSchaayam puruShe| yaSchaasaavaaditye| sa ekaH| meaning, the ananda in human being and that in the Hiranya garbha is the same even though there is a huge difference between the reflected anandas of the two.  Now we arrive at another important information – not only the substantives of objects are not ‘seen’, even the attributes of the objects are not ‘seen’. Perceptual process therefore involves only the image formation of the object in the pool of the mind without affecting the substantive or the attributes of the original.  This in mathematics we call as ‘mapping’ involving a transformation of the original into an image with qualities reflecting the original depending on the mapping technique
 and leaving the original unaffected. This forms very basis of the advaita principle. Original consciousness is the same and is never affected, while the reflected consciousness (es) are many depending on the reflecting media. 

Coming back to the perceptual process, just as the movie on the flat screen gives perception of the movement as well as the 3-D vision of the objective space and time, the mind operates in the same fashion from the point of objective data. Just as the frames are in sequence with one at a time, the vRittis or thoughts also form one after the other in sequence, forming continuity. We can only think one thought at a time. There is really no multi tasking in terms of perception during cognitive process. In this connection, the following experiment was of interest. Two parallel stories were recorded simultaneously on a cassette player and many people were asked to listen and report what they have learned. Interestingly seventy percent of men were able to follow one story or the other, leaving the second, while the rest of the thirty percent got thoroughly confused as they switched their attention from one story to the other. They only got the fragmented story
 of each, which is thoroughly confusing.  On the other hand, only 30 percent of women could follow one story or the other, while 70 percent could not. Although the conclusion reached out of these results was that men are capable of doing one task at a time, while the women are best for multitasking, the experiment only demonstrates the capacity of the human mind to focus only one aspect at a time and can be trained to concentrate on one task without getting distracted. As Krishana emphasizes this again and again that the mind can be trained to focus on the higher, in spite of many distracting avenues that mind can take, by what he calls as abhyaasa and vairaagya, dedicated practice and dispassion to reject the dissipating avenues. The success of any person in any field, and more so in the spiritual path, depends on the ability to pursue with single pointed devotion the goal he wants to achieve. For that only all the four fold qualifications are required.
 With the movement of the vRittis or thoughts, the concept of time arises when one compares NOW with THEN from the memory. If I can ride only on NOW without looking back (or without projecting into future with wanting mind), I live only in the dynamic present where there is no ‘time’. Thus perceptual process is nothing but imaging process where what is ‘out there’ is mapped into image in the mind using senses as the input media and mind forming the photographic plate. Cognition and recognition are separate as the former occurs immediately while the later involves comparison of the image with the images stored in the memory. Some times the matching is fuzzy, and we cannot easily recognize the imaged object. The names and the associated images could be stored at different places in the brain making it difficult to match the form with the name, particularly when one gets older. 

Inferential knowledge is different from perceptual knowledge in the sense that from what I see, I infer something that I can not directly see, using the relation, vyaapti, between what I see and what I infer. The process of inference involves a mental activity and therefore is not direct and immediate. I requires the knowledge of the previously established relation between the hetu (what I see) and saadhya (what I infer). This aspect has been exhaustively dealt from the point of both navya nayaa and advaita. 

Now a question is raised in terms of the so-called perception itself. Is there inference involved in perception? Or how direct is the direct perceptual knowledge. We mentioned that when I see an object in front of me, the perceptual process is direct and immediate in the same way as the image formation when one stands in front of a mirror. The analogy is exact. However, just as in the image formation, what I see is not the object per sec but the frontal projection of the object in each frame. Unless the object rotates we will never see the image in complete perspective. Even here the mind has to integrate all the images or frames to arrive or to infer the perspective image of the object in front.  However, even with lack of compete perspective projection, I can infer based on the information stored in the memory. Thus there is some inference involved in the perceptual knowledge. Thus if I see a cow in front of me, although I see only the parts of the cow
 that are exposed to my vision, I infer complete cow based on what I see. This inference comes from the previous knowledge of the cow in complete perspective. It is the same reason why we see only one side of the moon all the time due to synchronized orbits of the earth and the moon. 

Is this inference different from the inferential knowledge or anumaana pramaaNa. Yes, says Annambhatta, the famous nayyayika.  There is a distinction between the two inferences. In the direct perceptual case, what we see and what we infer refer to the same object, but now in complete detail. Thus if we see the frontal part of the cow due to perception, we infer the rest of the cow, even though we do not see directly now. In this case, the object of perception and the object of inference are both the same. Anumaana as separate means of knowledge comes in only when what we see is different from what we infer from what we see. What I see is the smoke and the mountain but what I infer is the fire on that mountain. I cannot see the fire directly but infer its presence using the concomitant relation between the smoke and the fire. Hence inferential knowledge is different from perceptual knowledge, although some degree of inference occurs even in perception. 

In addition, based on the analysis presented, we know now that what we see is not the object per sec but its image as projected in the mind as vRitti. The correspondence between the image and the original has to be established to insure what I see is what is there. If not, what I see is assumed as what is there, and this lack of inquiry of one to one correspondence between what I see and what is there can lead to errors in perception. The vision of snake where there is a rope comes under this category.  This is more a subjective error since it is the individual mind that makes the error. The photograph of the object does not show the presence of a snake where the rope is.  There are also objective errors like mirage water since error arises since image formed in the mind is just based on reflection of the light. . A photographic image of it also will show the appearance of the water due to the reflected light. Transactions involving karmendriayas can
 only confirm what I see is what is there or not. Hence the reality of the objects is established not by perception but by transaction. Hence the world of objects we transact with is called Vyaavahaarika satyam. With this we complete all the accounts related to perception and inference. We come back to the direct perception again when we discuss the aparokshaanubhuuti involved in shabda pramANa. 

With this understanding we now proceed to analyze the next PramANa.

Hari Om!

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