dvaita : Some Basic Explanations - 7

hbdave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Tue Feb 26 00:58:01 CST 2002

Dear List Memebrs,
Here is posting no. 7.
Best wishes to all,
-- Himanshu
-------------- next part --------------
Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 7 (khyaati)
                                                -- Himanshu
In previous posting (5), we have seen how a Vedantin talks
about the meaning of "this is" or "existence". We also
mentioned name of method of declaring existence - Khyati.
This is crucial to understanding of Advaita, so we elaborate
it further. This precise way of speaking is needed when we
are considering the phenomenal and empirical existences,
i.e. {\skt praatibhaasika} and {\skt vyaavahaarika} sattaa.

The question arises : "how or why is it that we see a snake where really
there is only a rope?"

If we can find answer to this question, then possibly we can understand
why is it that we see a world, including ourselves, where
as the Ultimate Reality, there is only {\skt brahman} Brahma, the Supreme
Being. Our Indian philosophers have explained in various ways (not all of
them acceptable or without problems), in terms of {\skt khyaati} how do we
state something. We shall discuss them briefly here.

{\skt asat khyaati} -- this is believed in by a section of Buddhists,
called {\skt "suunyavaadii} (Nihilists?). They say that the snake is totally
non-existent and thus similarly, this world is totally non-existent. While
discussing with such philosophers, Adi Shankaracarya used to tell
them "bang your head against the wall opposit and then tell me if the world
is there or not there."
        Note that {\skt asat} means non-existent like "horns of a hare".
        The modern name for this attitude is "nominalism".

{\skt aatma khyaati} -- a section of Buddhist called {\skt vij~naanavaadii}
(i.e., believing in theory of perceptions) think that the snake is seen
because in one's brain corresponding signals are generated, without any
basis or cause for them. As there is a very subtle difference between this
argument and {\skt anirvacaniiya khyaati} (see below) that is accepted in
Advaita Vedanta, some people in past had accused Adi Shankaracharya being a
pseudo-Buddhist (when Buddhism was on decline in India.), not understanding
the subtle difference.
        This is called "idealism" in modern terminology.

{\skt anyathaa khyaati} -- this is propounded by philosophers of the
{\skt nyaaya} (Logic) and {\skt vai"se.sika} (Physical scientists?)
schools. They say that when a man is seeing the snake (in the rope) he is
really "seeing" a snake which exists in some jungle, but due to defective
vision caused by bad light, sees it in the rope. In other words, the
confusion of the brain which knows both a real snake (in jungle) and the
rope (actually seen) creates the false snake.

{\skt akhyaati} -- this theory is propounded by philosophers of the
{\skt saa.mkhya} (enumerators?) and {\skt miimaa.msaa} (Karmakandi or
believers of actions) schools. They say that when one sees a "snake", there
are actually two kinds of knowledge one gets -- there is a ordinary or
common knowledge as "this is something" and second, becuase the thing seen
looks long like a snake, there is a specialized knowledge from memory
(of a snake seen previously) "this is a snake". Due to fear and darkness,
he is not able to realize that he is having two distinct form of knowledge
and takes it that he is seeing a snake. This wrong knowledge is called
confusion - {\skt bhrama}. The word {\skt akhyaati} means {\skt a khyaati}
"not a proper statement".

{\skt anirvacaniiya khyaati}  -- something which is not {\skt sat}
(existing in all the three times -- past, present and future) and also not
{\skt asat} i.e., totally non-existant (like son of a barren woman or
horns of a hare). We do see the snake in place of the rope under certain
circumstances, so it is not {\skt asat}, but when correct knowledge is
obtained, we see the rope and the snake "vanishes", so it is not {\skt sat}
also. This is called {\skt anirvacaniiya} -- {\skt a} not, {\skt nirvacaniiya}
definitely describable.
        In other words, it is "phenomenal".
        In any such situation, where a phenomenal knowledge is conveyed,
there is always some basis or sub-stratum {\skt adhisthana}. The process by
which the basis is perceived as the "thing" is called super-imposition,
{\skt adhyaasa} or {\skt adhyaabhaasa}. When correct knowledge is obtained,
the "thing" as if vanishes and the basis is seen. This process is called
suspension {\skt baadha}.

Doubt : Why do you say "as if vanishes"? As soon as you tell me that it is
a rope and not a snake, I can see that it is a rope, the snake goes away.

Reply : The snake was not there in first place. It was your wrong perception
that "as if created" the snake. So when you do not see it, it does not
vanish in reality, it only "as if vanishes".

Doubt : You had previously given a number of examples of phenomenal
existences like LCD digits in a calculator, mirrage, rising Sun, etc. In
case of 'the rope and the snake' illusion, as soon as I get the correct
knowledge, I stop seeing the snake, but even when I am taught in school why
the Sun seems to be rising in the East, I still see it rising! Or, I still
see the LCD digits as previously, even after someone explains how they work?

Reply : It is a good question. It extrapolates to 'why I go on seeing this
world even after Realization?'
Even after being told that 'it is a rope and not a snake', the image which
falls on the retina of your eye, the signals carried by the optic nerves,
etc. are the same. What changes is your interpretation or perception.

Going into some details : there are two aspects of any illusion - the
mithyaa "thing", called {\skt arthaadhyaasa} and its mithyaa "knowledge"
{\skt j~naanaadhyaasa}. When the "thing" has many characteristics similar
to the basis, after the correct knowledge, your wrong interpretation will
go away. This is what happens in case of 'a rope and a snake'. Your brain
is ready to re-interprete the physical signals received.

In some cases like LCD digits in a calculator, the characteristics of the
"thing" and the basis is so different that your brain continues to
interprete (upto manomaya kosha at least) the signals in the wrong way. The
differentiation occurs only at higher levels. When the characteristics are
totally different (in case of Brahman and the World), the correct knowledge
occurs only at highest level - Anandamaya kosha, all lower koshas still go
on experiencing the World.

Doubt : What is the difference between {\skt aatma khyaati} and
{\skt anirvacaniiya} ? To me they seem very similar.

Reply : The Vijnanvadi Buddhists do not consider any basis for the
perceptions generated in our brain, while in {\skt anirvacaniiya khyaati} a
basis is considered. You can not have a phenomena without some sort of basis.
The confusion is about if there is any basis at all and if so, what is the
ultimate basis.
Vidyaara.nya swami says in Panchadashi : [III-31]
{\skt sarvabaadhe na ki.mciccedyanna ki.mcittadeva tat |}
{\skt bhaa.saa evaatra bhidyante nirbaadha.m taavadasti hi ||}

"If the doubter objects 'nothing remains' after everything (names and forms)
has been destroyed, then our reply is - what you describe as 'nothing' is
Self. Here the language only differs, but there surely remains something,
(i.e., the Witness) after destruction of all."

Advaita philosophists say that the Ultimate Reality (basis) is {\skt brahman},
Brahman, all pervading Existance, which is attributeless, for-ever existing,
never changing.

We see it as Creation (ourselves and this world) due the power of Brahman
itself, which is known as {\skt maayaa}. This power, which is not separate
from Brahman (note well that it is not its attribute) itself is called
{\skt anirvacaniiya} -- in one plane of reference it is existing and at the
higher plane of reference it is not there. Why is it so?
We shall talk about it later in more details.

Doubt : In a dream we see many objects and events, but there does not
seem to be any basis.

Reply : No, there is a basis of course. Our brains activity during the
day and memory from the past forms the crude basis. The real basis is called
{\skt taijas}, the "I" in the dream, i.e., our Self which takes up the role
of the observer, who feels "I". We shall again discuss this in some details
later, taking the phenomena of dreams as an example to understand the World.

Doubt : Why you are talking about two basis?

Reply : In any creation, two entities are involved as the casues
{\skt kaara.na} -- one is called the material (crude) cause ({\skt upaadaana})
and second the effective cause ({\skt naimittika}). The first supplies the
objects out of which creation takes place, while the second provides the
information, knowledge component of the creation. In creation of a pot, the
clay is the material cause and the potter is the effective cause.

Doubt : But then what is the material cause of this Creation? You are
saying that according to Advait everything is Brahman, then from where did
the material cause came? And secondly, who was the effective cause?

Reply : Oh, you are now going into quite deep waters, but some thinking
will tell you that Brahman is both the material and effective cause of the
Creation (i.e., if you believe that there is creation in reality.) We shall
discuss this further in due course, because once you understand this, there
will not be any further confusion. This can not be achieved by logical
arguments alone, and so you have to be patient.

Let us stop here.
Best wishes to all.

-- Himanshu

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list