kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 25 01:03:00 CST 2006

Reality of the perceived world:

It is important to note that in all perceptions, we have only
attributive knowledge of the objects and thus the world, but no
substantive knowledge of world.  The substantive of the world is nothing
but Brahman, which is perceived not as Brahman but as something other
than Brahman.  We do not (cannot) see Brahman as Brahman (conscious
entity), but see the Brahman as varieties of objects, which do not have
any substantive of their own other than Brahman. The reality of the
world is provided by the reality of Brahman. 
asti bhati priyam rUpam nAmam chaityanca pancakam|
adhyatrayam brahma rUpam, jagatrUpam tathadvayam||
‘Existance, being known, being likable, form and name are the five
aspects of an object.  Of which the first three are expressions of
Brahman and the next two constitute the world’, says the author of
dRik-dRisya viveka. ‘Taking something other than what it is’ is called a
superimposed error or adhyaasa.  Thus, there is an inherent error in all
perceptions when we perceive and conclude that there is a separate world
‘out there’(that includes the concept of 'out there' too).  Because
there is a strong confirmation by our intense experience of the world of
objects – filling the stomach with food, sweating because of solid
weight lifting, etc.,- it appears that there is a solid material out
there as the world of objects.  For this specific reason only mADUkya
gives an exhaustive account of the dream world of objects.  In the
dream,  the dream food fills the dream body and dream solid
weightlifting causes sweating of the dream body, etc, and thus there is
an intense sense of reality for a dream subject about his dream world. 
Hence, intense experience itself does not fulfil the criteria for
reality of the dream objects, since both the subject and the objects of
experience are all resolved into one waking mind.  Thus we learn know
that dream pramAta and dream prameyams and dream pramANas all arise from
the waking mind supported by the consciousness that I am.  Similarly,
scripture declares that sarvam khalu idam brahman – the whole world of
objects are nothing but Brahman.  Therefore, the perceiver, feeler,
thinker, the knower, the pramAta in the waking world, the objects of
experience and knowledge, prameyam, and the means of knowledge, pramANa
are all supported by Brahman, the consciousness.  Hence Krishna says 
brahmArpaNam brahmahaviH bramhAgnou brahmaNAhutam|
brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma karma samAdhinA|| B.G 4-24
>From the point of our discussion the above sloka means, the perceiver,
the perceived and perceiving all in essence is Brahman only. There
cannot be anything else other than Brahman.  At the same time in
Brahman, there are no internal differences, i.e. there is no perceiver,
perceived and perceiving.  Just as in the dream, the creator, created
and the relation between the two, are all integrated into one mind
(corresponding to a waker) supported by consciousness that I am, one can
say in the waking world too, the tripuTi, the perceiver, perceived and
perceiving all arise from one total mind supported by consciousness. 
Consciousness identified with total mind is called Iswara. 

Let us bring all the facts that we have gathered from the above analysis
and from Vedic statements.
a). Brahman is existence-consciousness-limitless and is not only
efficient cause but material cause of the universe as well.  In fact,
all causes rests in Brahman since he is one without a second.  However,
the concept of cause-effect itself gets dissolved in Brahman as will be
noted in the upaniShad. 
b) Braham being infiniteness is attributeless, and therefore cannot be
c) Only objects can have attributes or conversely any thing that has
attributes is an object. 
d) Therefore Subject ‘I’ also has no attributes since it cannot be an
object. It being sat chit ananda swaruupa, its analogy with Brahman is
exact.  This upanishad in fact establishes the identity of the two. 
e) Being material cause, Brahman is substantive for all objects.
f) Inert objects with Brahman, the consciousness principle, as
substantive is illogical, yet that appears to be the case, when we
perceive the world of objects. 
g). Close examination of the perception process of an object indicates
that we can only gain attributive knowledge and not substantive
knowledge. This also agrees the above fact that Brahman, who is
incomprehensible, is substantive for all the objects.
h). Since we don’t perceive the objects per se and inert objects cannot
exist in reality with conscious entity as their substantive, the
existence of the objects out there is more an assertion than a fact
since there is nothing other than Brahman which is infinite and all
pervasive consciousness.
i). ‘That we experience the world; therefore it is real’ is an incorrect
assertion.  What we experience need not be true (just as one experiences
sunrise and sunset), and the truth of that experience need to be
investigated further. 
We conclude based on all the above information that inert entity cannot
exist since what exists is only Brahman, which is all-pervasive
conscious entity.  Since we do experience the world, we cannot say that
the world does not exist either, since its existence is sustained by the
real, which is Brahman.  Experience by itself is not a proof of the
reality of an object.  We cannot ‘experience’ Brahman.  Hence, we call
the existence of the world is only mithya, from the point of inherent
internal differences among the objects. From the existence point, the
world is still real since the existence is due to Brahman.  When I am
conscious of the world, the world is supported by the consciousness that
I am. Here I, the subject as pramAta, the world, the object as prameya
and the being conscious of through a pramANa, all are arising through
the mind supported by consciousness that I am.  The world should be real
looking from Brahman, as shruti statement - 'sarvam khalu idam brahma'
indicates  that from the vision of the Vedas, internal differences that
objectify the world will dissolve, since Brahman is satyam, jnaanam,
anantam. This is similar to the fact that from gold point the existence
of all ornaments as separate countable entities has no relevance.  

Mandukya brings out this fact through the analysis of the dream world. 
In the dream, we experience the dream world consisting of both dream
jiivas and dream jagat but all arising from the mind and in the mind,
due to the presence of a dreamer I, who is a conscious entity. Thus the
existence of the dream world is again supported by Brahman, the
conscious entity, since I am conscious of the world 

>From the waker’s point the dream is unreal, while from dreamer’s point
the dream is real. In the same way in the waking state, the waking world
appears to be real to the waking mind, and only when I am awakened to
the higher state of consciousness, what mAnDukya upaniShad calls as
caturta pAda or turiiyam, the world will be resolved into Brahman that I
am.  Dream world is as real as the dream subjects similarly the waking
world as real as the waker’s mind that perceives the world.  From
absolute point, the world is resolved into oneself.  Therefore, the
question of reality of the world has to be addressed from the point of
reference.  From absolute reference there is no world just as from gold
point there are no ornaments- all are nothing but gold  - gold it was,
gold it is and gold is will be.  Any arguments about the reality of the
world are akin to two dream subjects arguing about the reality of the
dream world.  If one is dreaming a blazing fire of a building and as a
firefighter he is putting out the fire using the water- hose while many
spectators are watching, all that appear to be real.  Fire is different,
the building is different, the firefighter and the water-hose are
different and the spectators, who are watching the operation some
praising and some criticizing, all appear to be real.  A dvaitins may
come, question how I can be the firefighter, and at the same time the
building that is being burned.  I am the subject and that is the inert
object. How can I be the object, the inert building out there that is
under fire?, etc.  Only when he awakened to the higher state all the
subject-object distinctions, all sajaati, vijaati swagata bhedAs resolve
into one mind, the waker’s mind.  Substantive for all the objects in the
dream are provided by the waker’s mind.  It is the material and
intelligent cause for the dream world.  However, as long as one is
dreaming, the dream world appears to be external to the dream subject
and is real in its frame of reference.    mADUkya emphasizes the
similarities of these worlds of experiences, waking world and dream
world – To emphasize this similarity, the mantras in fact run
essentially parallel, as we shall see when we come to the mantra

Advaita Vedanta, therefore, does not negate the relative reality of the
world from the reference of the waker, but negates only from the point
of pAramArthika satyam, absolute truth.  The world is as real as the
mind that perceives the world, even if, from the mind’s point, it is
only attributive knowledge.  From the absolute point, the mind that
perceives and the perceived world all resolve into homogenous mass of
consciousness that one is, where the perceiver, perceived and perceiving
all resolve into undifferentiated Brahman, turiiyam.  In this respect,
analogy with the dream world is exact.  There are, however, some slight
differences between the two states, which we will bring them out later.

The concept of mithya:  

Relative reality is called mithya in order to differentiate it from
absolute reality.  Mithya is that which appears to be there but upon
analysis, it resolves to its substantive.  Every mithya should have
something that is substantive which must exist.  That substantive must
be transparent to the perceiver for one reason or the other.  In the
case of the world, the senses cannot grasp the substantive, since they
can only grasp the attributes.  It is the mind that makes a judgment
call that there is an object ‘out there’ with such and such attributes
based on only the attributive knowledge and the experience associated
with that object. All further transactions are done with that knowledge.

When the mind does not function, question can be raised whether the
objects ‘out there’ exist or not.  Who is going to prove their existence
or non-existence?  Without a mind supported by a conscious entity,
existence and the knowledge of its existence cannot be established.  In
mathematical language, it becomes an indeterminate problem (similar to
the famous Schrödinger’s cat problem in physics2) and in Vedantic
terminology, it can be grouped under anirvachaniiyam or inexplicable.  

2 (In a thought experiment, a cat was placed in an enclosed radiation
chamber and the chamber was radiated.  The question that was posed is
whether the cat was alive or dead. Solving Schrödinger’s equation gives
the probability that cat alive or dead was 50% - similar to a lady being
50% pregnant.  The probability shifts to 100% either way only when a
conscious entity interferes with the system – that is someone had to
open the chamber and find out whether the cat was alive or dead. Thus,
only with the conscious entity, the existence of object and hence the
knowledge of its existence becomes a deterministic problem.  Wagner
tried to solve this problem by enclosing a man along with a cat.  The
problem remained the same since an outside conscious entity had to
interact or communicate in some way with the man inside the chamber to
make the problem into a deterministic problem – Conclusion is without a
mind supported by a conscious entity present, the existence of the world
cannot be established, entirely in agreement with the Mandukya

Additionally, if anything exists, it cannot be separate from Brahman,
since that will violate the limitlessness of Brahman.  If any object
exists, then that object’s existence has to be supported by Brahman’s
existence because of two reasons: a).  Brahman is all pervading
existence and b) Brahman is the material cause for Jagat, which includes
all objects.  Shruti says – yatOvA imAni bhUtAni jAyante, yena jAtAni
jIvanti, yat prayam tyabhisam vishanti, 
tat brahmeti – That from which
the whole universe arises, by which it is sustained and into which it
goes back is Brahman – Thus Brahman becomes adhiShTAnam or substantive
for all objects.  We can now define an object.  An object such as a pot
is defined as ‘prAgAbhAva pratiyOginI’ that is, its existence is counter
to its absence in the past as a pot.  The presence of an object pot ‘out
there’ implies that there was a time when the pot was not there.  Hence
pot is not real since real can never be absent at any time.  This is
true for any ‘created object’ or creation in general.  Existence of a
creation now implies that there was a time when there was no creation. 
Confirming this sruti says existence alone was there in the beginning
and it is one without a second.  All these imply that objects have no
independent existence and their existence (or their sustenance) is
provided by Brahman only as their material cause.  It also follows that
since Brahman is not an inert material but of the nature of
consciousness itself, objects have no inert material as substantive,
either.  That it appears to be so is the wonder of the creation.  That
power because of which it appears to be so is called as mAya.  Krishna
says in Gita: 
‘mayAtatamidam sarvam jagat avayakta mUrtinA|
mastAni sarvabhUtani na cAham teShu avasthitaH|| 9-4.
‘na ca mastAni bhUtAni pasyam me yogamaiswaram|
I pervade this entire universe in an unmanifested form.  All beings are
in me, but I am not in them. And in fact, there are no real beings in me
either, Arjuna, look at my glory!” Thus, the beings appear to be there
and they rise in me – but if one enquires further, the appearances are
only supported by me, but I am not involved in those appearances.  And
in fact, there is no reality for those appearances, either. This is all
the power of my maya.  Look at my glory, Arjuna. 

The apparent world is supported by Brahman, who is real.  At individual
mind level or vyaavahaarika level, the perceptions are real and
therefore the objective world or the inert world is as real as the mind
that perceives the world.  When the mind realizes that the substantive
of the whole world is nothing but Brahman that I am, the perceived
duality is recognized as only mithya, and not absolutely real.   

Similar problem occurs in the dream state where material world appears
to be real relative to a dreamer but not real from the point of a waker.
 Hence Vedanta PariBASha states that “antaHkaraNa vRittou jnAnatva
upacArAt”, it is a mental thought pattern figuratively spoken as the
knowledge of an object. 
>From ontological point, we define that which is eternal, unchanging and
that which has independent existence is real or sat. (GaudapAda
addresses these issues in the second Chapter of the kArika).  Brahman
fulfils these criteria; hence, it is sat-swarUpa. We define unreal as
that which has no locus for existence at any time.  A typical Vedantic
example is son of a barren woman.  There is no locus for defining such a
son.  Thus, unreal has no locus for existence at any time therefore can
never be experienced.  With these two extremities clearly defined, we do
have a third type, which does not fall in either of the two extremities.
 That which appears to be there but upon further inquiry it is not what
it appears to be, and some thing different from what it appears to be. 
This is true for all objects in the world, since they appear to exist
only at a relative level, either in the waking state or dream state,
etc.  Objective knowledge is only a relative knowledge and that is what
any pramaaNas can provide.  PramANas are applicable only in the relative
field.  The reason is objects have no independent existence but only a
dependent existence.  Anything that has dependent existence is defined
as mithya.  MAnDUkya Upanishad is going to establish that only the
self-conscious entity is alone self-existent entity since anything that
is not self-conscious becomes an inert entity.   Existence of inert
entity can only be established by another, which must be a
self-conscious entity. Hence we define an inert entity as ‘anya adheena
prakAShatvam, tat jaDam’ or 'anya adheena satvatvam, tat jaDam' – that
is whose existence and awareness of its existence depend on the
existence of another, which has to be self-existent and self-conscious
entity.  Hence, mithya can also be defined as that which has dependent
existence or relative existence or temporal existence.  Since mithya is
neither satyam (that which is eternal and therefore free from
modifications) nor asatyam (never experienced at any locus), it is
defined as sat asat vilaxanam.  There are criticisms against the mithya
concept of advaita, wherein critics argue that which is not sat has to
be asat and that which is not asat has to be sat.  Therefore, there is
nothing like that which is sat asat vilaxanam.  The basis of their
criticism is the presumption on their part that which is not sat has to
be asat and that which is not asat has to be sat.  The criticism is
invalid since advaita defines clearly indicating what is sat and what is
asat.  That which is eternal is satyam.  In addition, Brahman alone
satisfies the requirement.  That which has no locus for experience at
any time is asat, as in the case of son of a barren woman.  Mithya does
not fall under either of the two categories.  Shankara in fact provides
a definition for mithya in his commentary on the MAnDUkya kaarika that
is ‘anything that is seen is mithya’.  Sat cannot be ‘seen’ or perceived
since it is not an object for perception and asat cannot be seen since
it is nonexistent.  From the above analysis, it is obvious that any
object that is seen is only an attributive knowledge of the object and
not knowledge of its substantive, which is Brahman.  Hence, all
attributive knowledge is only relative knowledge and is mithya.  Every
mithya must have a substantive that is not seen, which cannot be
anything other than Brahman, since Brahman is one without a second. 
Absolute knowledge is knowledge of Brahman, which is the substantive for
all, which is real in absolute terms, which cannot be known by any
pramaaNa.  PramaaNa is a means of knowledge for a pramAta, the knower to
know prameyam, an object. The three (tripuTi) are mutually exclusive and
therefore are limited. Brahman being one without a second, cannot have
these internal distinctions.  Hence, it is called aprameyam, not an
‘object’ for knowledge through any pramaaNa.  ‘Then how Vedanta can
become pramaaNa for knowing Brahman?’ is an interesting question which
we will take up later.   

In nature, there are several examples that can illustrate the concept of
mithya jnAnam.  The most famous example is the mirage water in a desert.
 It appears to be there, but upon inquiry, it is not what it appears to
be, but is different from what it appears to be.  Since it is
experienced, it appears to be real to the experiencer.  Only upon
analysis, one recognizes the falsity in that appearance.  In this case,
even after knowing that it is false, the appearance can continue but the
knowledge that it is false remains with the knower. “Can you drink a
mirage water?” A dvaitin asked.  If he does not know that it is false
water, he may fall for it.  Until he gets another shocking experience
that there is no water there.  The two contradictory experiences then
confirm that the water that he saw was indeed false.  Obviously the
false water cannot quench his real thrust.  Of course, real water can
quench his real thirst just as, the real water in his dram world could
quench his real thrust in his real dream-world.  That does not make the
water in his dream any more real than the subject in his dream who was
thirsty.  In addition, when one closely inquires about the mirage water
and gains additional input for the senses, his previous sense input is
falsified. The example is intended to illustrate the false appearances
due to sense input with out the substantive input.  The interesting
aspect of this example is that even though one knows it is false, one
can continue to see the mirage water, and this mirage-jnAni does not
fall for it anymore.   

In one way or the other, all errors that mind commits essentially fall
into the mithya category.  All of them are experienced and therefore
appear to be real to the experiencer based on the knowledge of their
experience.  For the experiencer, relative to a particular situation,
they appear to be real but upon inquiry, they are not what they appear
to be.  Let us take the famous example of perception of a snake where
there is a rope.  Snake perception appears to be real, relative to the
perceiver of the snake, but upon proper inquiry, he will find that it is
not what it appeared to be, and is different from what it appeared. 
Thus, rope is the adhishhTaana or supporting entity for the snake that
was experienced.  Snake has a dependent existence since it depends on
the existence of a rope, and relatively rope has independent existence
since it does not depend on the existence of the snake. Snake we call it
as mithya while rope is relatively satya or relatively real.  Thus, that
which is experienced but can be negated upon inquiry is called mithya. 
It does not fall under the category of really real (satyasya satya) and
but it is still experienced hence cannot come under the category of
unreal (like son of a barren woman).  Hence mithya is sat asat vilaxNam,
that which does not fall under the category of real nor under the
category of unreal.  All mithya should have dependent existence while
that which supports or sustains has higher degree of reality.  At this
point is instructive to examine the errors in perception.  

This is taken up next. 

Hari OM!

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