[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -14: Part II
kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 24 11:27:48 CDT 2008
Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -14
1. Objection: The mind through vRitti has only attributive knowledge and not substantial knowledge is similar to Vijnaana vaadins of Buddhism and Western Idealism. For them also there are no objects out there. Object knowledge is only attributive knowledge is against Vedanta.
Response: Absolutely not. There is difference between attributive-object knowledge vs. Vijnaana vaada or Idealism of the West. When senses gather attributes when an object is perceived, the attributes are not created by the seer or seer’s mind. There is an objective reality or empirical reality or vyaavahaarika satyam. The objects with their attributes are the creation of the Iswara. Jiiva’s creation manifests only in dream states. Iswara creation is in the waking state. According to Advaita Vedanta, the Iswara himself became many – bahusyam, let me become many. The different objects with divergent attributes that distinguishes them are based on creation that occurs based on previous karma. Every object is an assemblage of the basic elements, the pancha bhuutas, the five primordial elements that come from Iswara. Iswara creation includes the minds of beings that perceive the objects through their senses. The minds and the objects they perceive
and the attributive knowledge of the objects through senses and the mind are ontologically in par. Only difference is mind is made up subtle elements while the objects are made with gross elements (i.e. after pancheekaraNam). That is one of the reasons why physical objects do not enter into the mind.
2. Objection: How do we know that senses bring in only attributes and not substance, since substance and attributes are inseparable?
Response: It is well known that when I see an object, the image of the object is formed on retina which gets transmitted in terms of electrical signal to the brain. The projection of three-D form occurs due to the presence of two eyes. Object remains outside while the image is formed inside the retina first, which is transmitted to the brain. This is where physics ends – the electrical input is transformed (through, how is not yet understood by anybody), into what Vedanta calls as vRitti in the mind. Hence, only those attributes that can be measured by the senses are fed into the brain and through brain to the mind. The mind being subtle and object being gross, it is good that substance does not enter into the brain and therefore into the mind. These are facts that we understood so far.
3. Objection: Form and color are not the only attributes, there are other sense input –shabda, sparsha, rasa, gandha, etc. Image formation is only at optical level. Hence the above explanation is not valid.
Response: The optical signal processing is very clear and faster compared to the processing of other signals. All sense-inputs follow through electrical inputs to the brain. If the nerves system fails and electrical signal input fails, the input from that senses fails. If all senses fail no knowledge of the external world occurs. These are facts that we know. There are no assumptions involved here. Having more than one type of attributes does not make the process different. All signal processing are the same. There may be parallel processing in stead of series processing, that is, simultaneous information feed rather than sequential feed. However at VRitti level, the thought in the mind appears to be sequential not parallel. One does not have two simultaneous thoughts.
4. Objection: The mind is not two dimensional screen for projection, as the analysis implies.
Response: The analysis does not assume that mind is two-dimensional screen. Virtual images of 3-D can be made easily and can be seen. Conceptually, the process is the same. The above analysis is valid even if one considers mind is 3-D or even multi-D. Mind remains subtle even if it is multi-dimensional. Matter outside is gross. According to Vedanta, mind as a part of subtle body is formed by the subtle elements before panciikaraNam. The matter (bhoutika) outside is gross and formed after panciikaraNam. The objects are made up of gross matter and attributes are subtle for senses to communicate, since sense input is transmitted as signal with codes imbedded in them. Senses form part of the subtle body only.
5. Objection: Object is not a substance, but it is an object with attributes whose attributes may differ from attributes of the substance. Ring is different from gold, the material substance. When VP says object ring is perceived, ring object is perceived by the mind not necessarily the attributes of the ring only.
Response: No. There are only two things – it is the substance in the form of an object, where form constitutes an attributes of an object along with other attributes. Object is notional, since it is the material or substantive itself in that form. When attributes are perceived, for perceived attributes a locus is formed and that is the vRitti in the mind. That vRitti is the object ring that is perceived. Object ring perceived is as real as the mind that perceives. Within vyavahaara ontologically both are equally real or equally unreal, depending on one’s vision or understanding.
6. Objection: According advaita there is a taadatmya sambandha between object and the attributes. Hence advaita does not say one can only perceive the attributes and not the object. VP says clearly object is perceived, and never says only attributes are perceived and the object is real within vyavahaara.
Response: taadaatma sambandha has to be understood correctly. Attributive locus is an object that is perceived – matter say gold, remaining out there, when I perceive the object ring, ring being a notional (a padam with no padaartham of its own – even at vyavahaara level) the attributes of the ring that senses perceive are ‘as though’ now locussed into the vRitti to form an object ring that is perceived. It could be semantics here. The taadaatma sambandha between the locus and its attributes remain during the perceptual process since notional ring outside is now notional ring inside – only the difference is the ring outside has its attributes while the ring inside the mind has to be based on the attributive knowledge gathered by the senses. Defects in the sense – and in the associated signal processing can reflect in the ring object seen in the mind, even though the outside ring is perfect. Neither ring outside nor the ring inside has matter
of its own, since objects are notional. Ring matter outside is gold and ring matter inside is the existence itself as part of vRitti, a subtle matter. taadaatmaya Sambhadha remains for both ring outside and ring inside since attributes perceived and object seen have avinaabhaava sambandha or non-separatability relationship of the object outside and object inside. This is accomplished without the matter or substance transfer – only because the objects are notional. This is not paaramaarthika; it is vyaavahaarika only.
7. Objection: This is an important objection that was not clearly addressed before. If we do not perceive the substance how do we ever know that there is such a thing as substance. In fact, how do we ever know that there are two things – substance and attributes if all objective knowledge is attributive?
Response: Here we need to differentiate between knowledge and experience to understand clearly. Knowledge involves mental process which is subtle. This includes perception. If there is a ring on the table, I perceive the ring through the process described above. Now when I pick up the ring and ware it, there is transaction that is involved that is not just a perceptual transaction. For others who are witnessing it may be, but for not the one who is transacting. There is an experience of wearing the ring that goes with the transaction. Sambhadha is now established between what is perceived and what is transacted. If the object cannot be transacted but only perceived, it will remain only as the perceived object. VP defines pramaaNa clearly as ‘anadhigata, abhaadita, arthavishayaka jnaanatvam’ – That which is not known before, that which is not contradicted and that which has a meaning in the sense that it has transactional reality. The
transactional reality is established by transaction. Bhagavan Ramanuja puts it as utility or usage. Transactablity establishes the reality of what is perceived and what is transacted. Hence the error or bhrama in advaita Vedanta is clearly related to negatability by contradictory experience. If I see a snake and later discover that it is a rope via transaction (say by beating the snake/rope by a stick), what was perceived before is recognized as error. If there is no contradictory transaction (that is transaction that contradicts the perception of a snake) involved the perception of the snake of a rope remain as a snake in the mind of the perceiver.
Whoever comes to our house feels like touching the flowers displayed on our coffee-table to find out if they are real or those made in Japan. By the feeling the texture, they discriminate real vs. Japanese flowers, because by perceptual process or just by looking at the flowers the attributes are not discriminative enough to differentiate. If one can make the texture also identical, then they may venture to do further tests to differentiate them. The example further proves that attributive knowledge is not substantial knowledge. Advaita Vedanta is self-consistent, logical in its analysis and also is in tune with the current state of understanding of science.
As a child grows to gain knowledge of the world, perception and the associated transaction establishes the validity of perceptions. Both are within vyavahaara or transactional realities. We are not bringing paaramaarthika here, although in the perceptuality requirement VP does address the paarmaarthika aspect too. There is no other vyaapti required to establish the concomitant relation between the vRitti in the mind and the object out there – since perception is immediate and direct. We are also not violating any epistemological issues either. That one perceives through the subtle mind, the substantive that is gross, along with attributes that are subtle is indeed an assumption that is unscientific and illogical. We do not want our minds clogged by all the substantives that we perceive.
8. Objection: If there are two things A and B, and if A is perceived and not B, two things are sure: 1. either B is known to exist apriori, and not perceived in this specific instance. 2. Or B is totally unknown apiori and not perceived in this specific instance too. So which case of the above is true when perception of substance is denied? If it is former then what is the source of our knowledge about ‘substance’? If memory is not pramaaNa, such apriori knowledge of about the substance can not be summed in the current denial of perception of the substance.
Response: First the above statements are confusing. The objector starts with a statement – ‘if there are two things A and B’ – and in that very statement there is an inherent assumption of the conditional existence of two things A and B and also the existence of difference between A and B, based, obviously, on the differences in the attributive knowledge of A and B. The subsequent discussion involving vikalpas (choices) only deny what has already been assumed. ( I am just having some fun with dialectics, since the objector enjoys the dialectics). Let us examine the objection more seriously. 1. If B is known to exist apriori but not perceived now in this specific instance only implies that object B, was perceived through the vRitti and is now stored in the memory. Whatever objects B, C, D etc that were perceived before is stored in the memory. The substantive knowledge is established for B only through transaction with B. If perception of B is
brahma like a snake perception and was not negated as bhrama by contradictory transaction, then it will remain as snake perception only in the memory. There is no problem in that either, since perceptual process is only attributive. Let us take the next choice – ‘2. Or B is totally unknown apiori and not perceived in this specific instance too’. This statement denies the first conditional statement that there are A and B. B is, means B exists and existence of B cannot be established without the knowledge of its existence. That means its existence is known but not perceived now (it can be known through by other pramaaNa too). Since there is no object now with its attributes that mind through the senses can perceive, one has no cognition of B now, even if it is known to exist in the memory because of the assumption made.
The objector asks: So which case of the above is true when perception of substance is denied? The current absence of the existence of object B is true since it is not perceived now, even though existence of B and its attributive knowledge is there in the memory. If I do not see cow in my office right now, although I knows cows exists in the world with their characteristic attributes, then non-existence of cow now in my office is true. Attributes do need a locus and vRitti that formed locussed the attributes when the object is perceived and is now stored as VRitti or its impression in the memory. I do not see cow now because the attributes of the cow that are locussed in cow is not currently perceived through senses in any object that I see in my office. In this case there is no source for the substance or its attributes. Cow is only VRitti stored in the memory.
Objector says, ‘if memory is not a pramaaNa, such apriori knowledge of about the substance can not be summed in the current denial of perception of the substance’. The statement of the objector is somewhat confusing. If I recall that I saw a snake yesterday based on the attributive knowledge that the senses gathered, and now say I do not see a snake here in my office, there is no reason for substance snake to be there for me to deny its existence now. It is not there now because I do not see any attributes of the snake in my office. I can recall the snake that I saw yesterday sitting in my office now, since in my mind what I saw as a snake based on the attributes that I could gather at that time. There is no confusion in understanding of perception described above. The above objection has no relevance.
Memory as pramaaNa is accounted by the VP as abhaadita arthavishayaka jnaanatvam where anadhigata is removed since one knows based on past perception. Non-negatability and transactability remain as means of knowledge. Recall the example of trying to meet Mr. Gaagaabuubu in the station for the first time, based on the attributive knowledge that I have gathered in the past. Since now I know how he looks etc based on the hear-say knowledge (aapta vakyam), I can look for Mr. Gaagaabuubu and find him there. I will find that the attributive Gaagaabuubu in my mind matches with the attributes of the Mr. Gaagaabuubu out there in the station. Suppose I do not find any one that matches the description of Gaagaabuubu in the station, all it means is that attributes of all the people that see in the station do not match with the attributes of Gaagaabuubu that I have stored as a VRitti in my mind When I shake hands with the Mr. real Gaagaabuubu – He becomes
transactable entity – vyaavahaarika satyam - if it is just attributive he may remain as pratibhaasika like our good old snake.
None of the objections raised above contradicts the perceptual process described.
9. Objection: If the very notion called `substance' is ever unknown apriori, how can one say substance of all things is Brahman, for Brahman is not at all perceived to be the substance of the
things in any acts of perception?
Response: Through transactions that one knows that ring that I see is real at transactional level. Also the snake that I saw was not real when my subsequent transaction proved that it is rope. Brahman is known as substantive not by perceptual process but by Shruti statements – ‘sadeva souma idam agra asiit’ – ‘aatma eva idam agra asiit’ and is further confirmed by ‘neha naanaasti kincana’ and ‘sarvam khalu idam brahma’, etc.
In my commentary of VP, none of the basic principles of perception are violated. Only disagreements are mind running to the object rather than senses bringing in the attributive info to the mind and the concept to time. As for as I am know, both have no bearing in terms of the perception of the objects, now.
With these statements I will continue with the analysis of VP. I want to thank all the discussers for their stimulating discussions on the issues raised. My special thanks to Shree Srinivas to force me to think deeply on the relation between the substance and its attributes.
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