Unreality of the world: a further analogy

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Wed Jun 18 18:02:38 CDT 1997

On Wed, 18 Jun 1997, Allan Curry wrote:


> The world as it appears to us is obviously not independent of Atman if
> Atman is what we want to call awareness. To assume that the world is also
> something "in-itself" (to use Kant's terminology) apart from our
> awareness/perception of it seems to be a reasonable belief given the above
> discussion of the Advaitin theory of perception. We can perhaps experience
> ourselves as being boundless awareness, but how can we know that the
> world-in-itself (independent of our body/mind's interaction with it) is
> identical to our self (ie. boundless awareness)? Neither our selves nor the
> things of the outside world (as they are in-themselves) can be known by us
> as objects.  All indiscernibles may seem like one to us and yet not be in
> themselves. How could we know whether these two indiscernibles are one or
> two when neither can be discerned as an object?

Traditional advaita vedAnta has no problem here, because it accepts Sruti
as a valid source of knowledge. Note that the entire set of questions you
ask is based on the possibility of knowing things through perception. But
advaita vedAnta gives valid epistemological status to Sruti, and things
that are not perceived or inferred can be taken as given truths if
scripture says so. And numerous Sruti statements make it a logical
necessity that the world-Self is identical to own-Self. (I avoid
world-in-itself because of its possible dualistic implications here.)

Without scripture, one has to rely on a mystic insight. However, one has
to be careful about what kind of mystic insight can be granted
epistemological validity, or otherwise. For example, when Sri Lakshman Joo
describes the non-dual experience in Pratyabhijna Saivism as one where the
world is 'digested into oneself', this rings true to my ears, if only
because it sounds remarkably like the 'prapancopaSamam' described in the
mANDUkya upanishad. But frankly, the mystic insight claimed by a number of
other teachers in the world today makes me suspicious, to say the least.
However, I have not come across any criteria by which one mystic's insight
is acceptable as more true than another's. It is only the "gut" feeling
(the manas with its function of samSaya) that I am describing here.


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