Mind and the Intellect (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Jan 3 01:22:15 CST 2002

Like philosophers everywhere, before investigating the idea of supreme
knowledge, our sages asked the question what does it mean to know? How is
knowledge accquired?  Different schools had different ideas on this
subject.  Because language is our primary means of knowing that which is
beyond our immediate perceptions, a good deal of effort was expended on
analyzing language.

However, a problem for the Advaitin is that he believes that language and
forms including the speaker and the listener (nama-rupa) are a distortion
(_not_ an illusion for reasons I'll mention below) of the ultimate
reality.  From the earliest times the critics of Advaita Vedanta seized on
this fact.  At the beginning of the adhyasabhashya (See Sadanandas earlier
postings for full details)  this criticism is expressed as following if
Brahman is unknown and Advaita Vedanta says methods of knowing are false
then Brahman is unknowable and Advaita Vedanta is futile.  But if Brahman
is already known by some means than Advaita Vedanta is pointless.
Shankaracharyas reply is to ask what does "unknown" mean?  It doesn't mean
we have no data whatsoever.  We have the shastras to tell us there is such
a thing as Brahman.  We have the evidence of consciousness in our everyday
lives.  The problem is the data is incomplete or misunderstood.  The goal
then of Advaitic sadhana is not to lean something new, but to strip away
the errors and ignorance which prevent the recollecion of what was already
known.  The example is given of a crystal.  If you shine a red light
behind it, it appears red.  If you shine a blue light it appears blue.
But it is really clear. Maya is often incorrectly translated as illusion
but what it really is, is ignorance (avidya.)  Once you learn there is no
blue crystal or red crystal, it doesn't follow that you also learn there
is no crystal at all.

Ignorance can range from the cosmic to the quite mundane.  If for example
you think the word Maya means "tennis racket" you are obviously not
going to progress far in your sadhana.  If you've only read an English
translation where Maya is rendered as illusion, you're also not going to
have a good understanding of the subject.  This kind of ignorance doesn't
require any mystical ability to dispel it.  A dictionary or discourse
with some scholar or saint etc. can do it.  This the stage where logic and
language and all the other trappings of the intellect play a role.

More to follow.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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