[Advaita-l] Re: Noumenon from Phenomenon

Mahesh Ursekar mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com
Sun Jun 12 11:48:42 CDT 2005

n an earlier mail, I had given my arguments for the existence of a noumenon 
and by happy coincidence, today I happened to read Sankara's arguments on 
the same. They are taken from S. Radhakrishnan's "Indian Philosophy", Vol2. 
Here they are:

 Sankara says: "In the world, no non-intelligent object without being guided 
by an intelligence brings forth from itself the products which serve to 
further given aims of man. For example, houses, palaces, beds, seats, 
pleasure gardens and the like are contrived in life by intelligent artists 
in due time for the purpose of obtaining pleasure and averting pain. It is 
exactly the same with this whole world. For when one sees how, for example, 
the earth serves the end of the enjoyment of the fruits of the manifold 
works, and how, again, the body within and without by possessing a given 
arrangement of parts suitable to the different species and determined in 
detail that it may form the place of enjoyment of the fruit of the manifold 
works…how should this arrangement proceed from the non-intelligent pradhana? 
… Clay, also, for example, is formed, as experience teaches, to different 
shapes only so long as it is guided by the potter, and exactly in the same 
way must matter be guided by another intelligent power"

The purpose of the creation is to serve as the stage for the reward of the 
deeds of earlier existences which stretch back for each individual ad 
infinitum. Unconscious prakriti is not the explanation of nature or the 
subjective aspect of the world and the working of the law of karma. 
Consciousness and activity must belong to the cause of the world. The 
regularity and adaptation (racana) of the world indicate a conscious 

 Now why does the "creator" need to be beyond time, space and causation? 
Sankara argues on three fronts: the epistemological, cosmological and 

 The idea of logic compels us to assume the reality of a perfect subject, to 
whom all existence is related as an object. Truth as systematic harmony 
means the reality of a divine experience. That events are interconnected in 
a system is the assumption of common sense and science, which is 
increasingly confirmed by experience, though never realized in its entirety. 
For there is much in the world that never directly enters into our 
experience. We seem to know much, though even in this limited region our 
knowledge is imperfect. Only a complete apprehension of reality as a whole 
can justify that God is and S/He is the creator of all. Our human experience 
is incapable of apprehending the world in its entirety, achieve a harmony of 
pure being with restless infinitude. However much we may order and simplify 
our experience and reduce its complexity to the single prakriti, the 
purursa, or the subject, would still remain the outside observer of its 
lonely flight through space and history. If the universe is small enough for 
our little minds to explore, if we can tell whence it comes and wither is 
goes, can understand its origin, nature and destiny, then we are not finite 
and we do not demand an infinite. The logical belief that all facts belong 
to a system and express the mind of God is only an idea. 

 The cosmological argument employs the concept of cause, which is not 
adequate even in the empirical world, and turns out altogether useless when 
we try to relate the world of experience to the ultimate reality, which is 
said to manifest itself through it. The different lines in the phenomenal 
series cannot explain one another. We cannot admit within the world of 
phenomena an uncaused cause. The question of an absolute beginning of the 
phenomenal series, samsara, is a self contradictory one. To seek for it is 
to seek in time for that which is the condition of the very being of time. 
It is the essence of samsara that it has no beginning. The infinite to which 
we rise by the mere negation of the finite is another idea requiring 
explanation. When the argument from causality, which has its validity 
confined to the world of changing phenomena, is applied to the real, the 
latter is misconceived, since it is made an object of knowledge, and that 
which we infer as the cause of the world belongs also to the world of 
experience. We can infer only a finite creator from a finite world, even if 
we assume the universality of the principle that every effect has a cause. 
The first cause must be a unity of the same order of being as the objects of 
experience, since the latter are brought into relation with it. If Isvara is 
the cause of the world he must be within the space-time framework, a vastly 
magnified human whose self-consciousness is defined by the instrumentality 
of a body and a mind analogous to our own. If such a being exists, no 
foreseeable extension of our knowledge could enable us to determine his 
nature and existence. Such a God, moreover, working through instruments 
analogous to the human ones, is neither infinite nor omnipotent.

 The moral argument that the context of things is adapted to the soul of 
humans and shows the workmanship of a benevolent God is also unsatisfactory. 
However, the matter be turned, in a real world the responsibility for sin 
and evil falls on God. If, to relieve him of the authorship of evil, we 
accept something like the mythology of Persia and make Satan responsible for 
it, then the oneness of God disappears and we reinstate a dualism between 
God and Satan. God must feel the pain of the soul also, even as, when one 
member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it. It follows that 
the sufferings of God are much greater than those of the individual souls, 
and it is better for us to remain self-enclosed individuals with our limited 
sufferings than rise to the level of God and take upon ourselves the burden 
of the whole world.

 A perfect God does not require the world for his satisfaction. If it is 
said that the world is for his enjoyment, then God is no God but only a 
samsarin. If we say that God has determinations, gunas, like personality, 
perfection, etc, it is difficult to conceive how these can coexist with 
absoluteness. The attempt to conserve the characteristics of personality 
(guna) and absoluteness (Brahman) seems to be wellnigh impossible for logic.

 The lesson which Sankara derives from these inadequate proofs for the 
existence of God is that the question has no meaning in reality and arises 
only within the world of experience.

 !! Om Tat Sat !!

 Regards, Mahesh

 On 6/4/05, Mahesh Ursekar <mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com> wrote: 
> Pranams:
>  One of the monumental philosophical feats of the great Sankaracharya was 
> arriving at the necessity of Brahman from the phenomenal world of things 
> without the use of the Upanishads! I read that he did this via the Gaudapada 
> Karika (but I may be wrong). I do not have access to his arguments and if 
> anyone of you learned people could point me to a book (and where I could get 
> it in Mumbai would be most useful), I would be highly grateful. 
>  In my own personal deliberations, bound as I am by reason and logic, I 
> too attempted this task in order to reduce dependence on "mere" faith. Below 
> is a synopsis of my thoughts (biased Westward a little). They might seem 
> naïve to many of you well versed in the abstruse points of philosophy. 
> However, if you could spare some time and blow my arguments apart or point 
> to better ones, you will find me highly obliged. For what they are worth, 
> here they are: 
>  It is often said - "you become who you think you are" or "the world is 
> what you make of it". While these might seem like aphorisms for daily 
> living, they are undeniable facts. How many of us are not aware of a 
> supremely intelligent person languishing in a mediocre job while a relative 
> dullard enjoying a high post? Sure, you could attribute it to karma or luck 
> or what have you but if you had a chance to know each person personally, the 
> truth, to some degree, would be revealed - the dullard had right thinking 
> (or attitude) while the brains were lost in negativity. 
>  A corollary to the above - since your thinking defines you, it is your 
> deepest thoughts that guide where you are and where you are going. Sure, a 
> desire to marry Aishwarya Rai or Brad Pitt would be held by most but it is 
> only a surface thought (except maybe for Salman and Jennifer! ;-) ) and 
> doesn't eat us day and night. In short, you are inextricably moving towards 
> your deepest desires. 
>  Now, while the above may be true, you can't deny that the dullard would 
> most likely not be resourceful enough to reach the high position he or she 
> is currently at. So, how does this happen? There seems to be a need of an 
> external agency (the argument of Yoga?) that is propelling him or her in the 
> direction of his or her deepest desire. My dullard meeting someone to sign a 
> great business deal can't happen unless something outside was aware of both 
> parties thoughts and bought them together. 
>  Ok, if we grant an external agency, the question is - why can't this 
> external agency be a super human who thinks very fast and is guiding the 
> world. That may be so, indeed. However, none of us in our current human 
> states can achieve this, so we could say that this agency has superhuman 
> powers in order to accomplish this. In short, a God. 
>  So, would it be possible for us humans to mortally tap into this power? 
> Yes, but that would make life meaningless since you become one with everyone 
> and have no need to do anything. Which probably means that this power is 
> most likely beyond the mind - or not caught in the mind's trap of time, 
> space and causation! 
>  Can this power then have favorites? The world does not seem to reflect 
> this - the rich are sometimes miserable, the poor sometimes happy, the evil 
> sometimes possessing power and wealth, the good sometimes fraught with 
> penury. 
>  Therefore, I am convinced that there is most likely a power (call it 
> Brahman) beyond space, time and causation that sustains the world. However, 
> I am unable to find convincing arguments to stretch the power to have to the 
> Swapura Lakshana - Sat, cit, ananda of Brahman mentioned in the scriptures. 
>  Can someone help?
>  Regards, Mahesh

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