[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -9

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 7 02:31:03 CST 2008

[We are discussing Vedanta ParibhASha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra, based on my
               9. Perceptuality of Objects; Definition vindicated. 

Here VP provides the basis for immediate and direct nature of perception.  It
defines the perceptuality of an object or an object’s immediate perception in ‘not
being different from the consciousness associated with the subject’. Essentially the
statement says, for a subject (knower or pramAta) to be conscious of an object
(prameya), consciousness associated with the subject cannot be different from the
object that is being perceived. It is a statement that baffles the intellect at
first.  Because we have learned all along that subject is different from the object,
and subject can never become an object, and object can never become a subject. 
Subject is a conscious entity and object is an unconscious entity. The statement of
VP is carefully worded which does not deny the superficial differences while not
accepting any substantial difference between the two. In addition the statement
actually relates the object perceived to the subject that perceives the object.  It
says that the consciousness underlying the subject is not different from the object,
for the object perceived.  This understanding comes from the fundamentals of
Advaita. In dRik dRisya viveka, Vidyaranya says – antardRik dRisyayoH bhedam
bihischa brahma sargayoH| AvRiNosya paraashaktiH sA samsArasya kAraNam|| The
difference between the seer (subject) and the seen (object) in the mind, and the
difference between Brahman and the creation (world) outside, is due to the veiling
power of maaya. It is this perceived difference is the root cause for all human
suffering. Maayaa is that which appears to be there, but is not really there when
one starts inquiring about its nature.  Hence the difference between the seer and
the seen arises due to maaya; therefore only apparent and not real. 

The important point here is VP states this as the criterion for perceptuality of an
object.   Requirement for perceptuality is taking one step beyond a simple statement
that consciousness is underlying substantive for everything in the universe that
includes the perceiving subject and perceived object. The requirement for
perceptuality of an object is the subject consciousness not be different from the
object perceived.  If it is different, the object is non-perceptual. Now are there
any cases where this requirement is not met? This will be elucidated by VP to
justify the statement, through questions and answers. 

Q. When I see a jar, I say, ‘I see a jar’. I am the subject, seer, and the jar is an
object, seen. I am different from the jar, for me to see. In fact whatever I see, I
am not that. If that is the case, how can a jar or any object that I see is the same
as the consciousness that I am, or more accurately be one with the limiting
reflected consciousness, the perceiver that I am?  The objection is that this
equation of the subject with the object contradicts our experience. 

A. Stating that the consciousness of the subject not be different from the perceived
object is not the same as the subject is identical with the object. It only means
perceptual object having no independent existence apart from the existence of the
knower, ‘pramAtRisattA atirikta sattAkatva abhAvaH, (other than the existence of
knower, there is no other existence for perceptual objects)’. I can stretch this
statement to relate to the one I have been making, that the existence of an object
is established by the knowledge of its existence. Here VP puts it in slightly
different form that the perceptuality of an object is having no independent
existence apart from the existence of the subject. That becomes a criterion for all
perceptions being immediate and direct.  If it is not perceptible, does it have
independent existence? – This question is not raised. 

Let us illustrate this with an example of a perception of a jar.  We have discussed
this aspect before.  It was stated that Brahman, pure consciousness, is the material
cause for the universe. Existence-consciousness-limitless is its intrinsic nature.
Since Vedanta says Brahman is one without a second, there cannot be anything other
than Brahman.  From this it follows that all objects in this universe, without
exception, are nothing but Brahman alone but with different names and forms – just
as all golden ornaments are nothing but gold alone with different names and forms.
Gold remains as gold but appears as varieties of ornaments each with its own
attributes that are different from the other. Hence all the ornaments are just gold
with superimposed differing attributes. As VP clarifies, superimposition (adhyAsa)
does not mean one on top of the other.  It is like ring’s attributes are
superimposed on gold to be named as ring which differs from the attributes of bangle
that are superimposed on another piece of gold. Similarly Brahman being the
substantive of all objects, the differences between object A from object B is only
due to differences in the superimposed attributes of A from B. Hence objects A and B
differ only in terms of their attributes than in their substantives. Ring differs
from bangle only in terms of their attributes while the substantives for both remain
the same, namely gold.  Knowledge of A should involve discriminative knowledge of A
from the other objects in the universe.  Similarly is the knowledge of B. Hence
knowledge of any object, since all objects have the same substantive, involves only
knowledge of its attributes. The substantive of all objects being Brahman, it is
expressed as existence itself. Hence every object is existence + its attributes. The
perception involves grasping the attributes of the object by the senses. Existence
being all pervading, everything is in existence only. As discussed before, existence
is not an attribute to be grasped by senses.   

So far we have been examining the perception from the point of objects.  We need to
raise the question now in terms of who is the subject, since the statement of VP is
the perceptuality of object involves consciousness of the subject not being
different from the object.  When I see the object, I say I am the seer and the
object is seen.  But who is this ‘I am’, the seer or the knower of the object. 
Obviously when I say I am the knower, unlike the object, I have to be a conscious
entity since unconscious entity cannot see or know. Object cannot know itself nor
can establish its existence by itself. I have to be there to say ‘the object is’. On
the other hand, object need not have to be there to establish my existence.  That
implies my existence, or to be more general, existence of a conscious entity is
independent of the existence of the inert object. On the other hand, the inert
object’s existence cannot be established independent of existence of knower, a
conscious entity. (This logic is called anvyaya-vyatireka used to establish
dependent and independent relationship between two entities – the two entities here
being object and the knower of the object).  Existence of an object is therefore
established by knowledge of its existence by a knower. Hence VP statement follows: 
The perceptuality of an object depends on its having no independent existence apart
from the existence of the knower of the object.  Based on our recent discussions, we
caution here that the statement only applies to the perceptuality of the object and
not its independent existence on its own. Whether it has independent existence or
not can never be known if there is no knower or pramAta to establish its existence
by perception. Can one establish its existence by inference? By inference one can
only establish the possibility of its existence and not its existence. For
validation of object’s existence, inference also rests on perception though
cause-effect relationships or vyaapti.  If there is no knower, the existence of the
object, then, becomes indeterminate or anirvacanIyam. 

Then the next question is who is that ‘I am’, the knower, the pramaata. While this
aspect will be address in detail again, it is sufficient here to realize that the
ever present witnessing consciousness, sAkshI can not be a pramaata or the knower.
Knower involves a modification or vikaara.  According to Advaita, the ever present
witnessing consciousness, sAkshI is all pervading infinite Brahman who does/can not
undergo any modification. However, in his presence one can say prameya, pramaata and
pramaaNa - the tripuTi – the three fold division can exist.  If sAkshii is not
pramaata can the mind be the pramaata, the knower.  Mind is also an inert entity,
and by itself cannot be a knower. Knower has to be a conscious entity. Then, who is
the knower? According to Adviata Vedanta, pramaata, subject or knower is a ever
present consciousness, sAkshI chaitanyam, but reflected in the mind as reflected
consciousness – called cidAbhAsa –commonly known as Ego or ahankaara – which has the
notion of ‘I am the doer’ or ‘I am the knower’ or ‘I am the enjoyer’ – etc, the hero
of everybody’s autobiography. As discussed before mind being a subtle matter, it has
capacity to reflect the light of consciousness of sAkshI and the degree of its
reflection depends on its purity. It is analogous to the degree of reflection of
light depends on the cleanliness of the mirror. To eliminate any misunderstanding
that can arise that the mind is separate from sAkshI, the pure consciousness, we
need to recognize that like all other objects, mind is also a superimposition on the
all pervading consciousness, like ring on gold. The substantive of the mind is
sAkshI caitanyam or witnessing consciousness only.  In contrast to the inert objects
which are grosser forms, mind being subtle can express Brahman not only as existence
but also as ‘reflected consciousness’.  Hence pramaata, the knower, is the reflected
consciousness in the mind. 

Now we can bring all the three factors – pramaata, prameya and pramANa together to
complete the perception. When the pramANa operates through the senses forming a
vRitti or mental state in the mind, it is also reflected in the light of
consciousness. Now we have two reflected consciousnesses – one directly the mind as
pramaata or knower, and the other reflection of the vRitti. Since consciousness is
all pervading, it pervades the mind too. In contrast to the grosser (bhoutika)
elements superimposed on consciousness Brahman, mind corresponds to subtler element
(bhUta). Being subtle, the mind can ‘reflect’ the all illuminating consciousness and
that reflected limiting consciousness is called cidAbhAsa or ahankaara or Ego. In
the case of mental states or vRitti that corresponds to external or internal
perceptions, its illumination is when it forms in the mind.  Thus when an object is
perceived its mental state is formed and illumined. When the next object is seen,
the next mental sate is formed and illumined. vRittis are formed sequentially and
the associated thoughts are also sequential in the mind. However, in forming Ego or
cidAbhAsa, the mind itself is an object of illumination with its attributes. Hence
the illumination and reflection occurs as long as mind and its attributes are there;
that is, all the time when the mind is operating. That includes both the waking
state and deep sleep state. Hence cidAbhAsa or ahankaara or Ego is formed all the
time when the mind is there. 

We are using the words superimposed or reflection like a mirror etc, only for the
purpose of illustration.  Mind is superimposition on Brahman like a ring on gold,
while consciousness is adhiShTAnam or substratum for the mind. Hence the mind is
consciousness alone but appears as inert but subtle object.  Since it is subtle, it
can reflect the light of consciousness much better than gross elements.  The
illumination and reflection occurs all the time as long as mind is there. Thus ego
will be there all the time as long as mind is there.  This is true even for jnAni,
except jnaani is the one who realizes that I am not the ego, and knows that ego is
just a superimposed entity (adhyAsa) like ring on gold, but I am the substantive or
adhiShTAnam or the absolute eternal consciousness.  Hence mind of jnaani is free
from egotistical notions that I am this or that etc.  He will use the ego, as he
uses the mind and the body for transactional purposes.   Life itself pulsates
through the mind as a subtle body. The reflected light of consciousness (cidAbhAsa)
in turn illumines the gross body, the five praNas or physiological functions, five
sense organs and five organs of action.  It is like sun illuminating the moon and
moon in turn illuming the others. The reflected consciousness, cidAbhAsa, for all
practical purposes (or transactional purposes or vyAvahArika) acts as the conscious
entity, although it is borrowed consciousness from the original – sAkshI chaitanya.
Mind is there during waking and dream sleep states and in potential form in the deep
sleep state, while sAkshI is there as adhiShTAnam or substratum all the time. Hence
cidAbhAsa or Ego is there in the waking and dream states and in potential form in
the deep sleep state. We understand from this analysis that as long as mind is
operating that is during the perceptual process, it is getting illumined by sAkshI
chaitanyam and therefore Ego is there as bankground reflecting limiting
consciousness for all transactions with the mind. It is this Ego that acts as a
knower or pramAta during perception. The reflection is the reflection of light of
illumination of consciousness that is all pervading – it is existence-consciousness.
There cannot be any divisions in consciousness, just like there are no divisions in
space. Any divisions in space or in consciousness are therefore only for
transactional purposes.  Since perception is a transaction, it is said to be
complete when the consciousness reflected as knower, pramaata, unites with the
consciousness reflected in the VRitti formed via the operation of pramANa,  that is
the sense input. 
Thus, existence-consciousness all pervading Brahman remains as substantive for all,
the knower, knowledge and the means of knowledge. Consciousness expresses itself by
its reflection as both the knower or the subject and known or vRitti that is formed
in the mind via the sense input.  Both reflected consciousnesses as a knower and the
known are in the mind only. The former can be considered as general reflection in
the mind as a knower (Ego or ahankaara) while the other as particular reflection in
the vRitti as known.  That is both the subject and the object are in the mind.  The
substantive for both is expressed as consciousness or existence.  Perception is said
to be complete when reflected limiting consciousness in the subject is united with
the reflected limiting consciousness of the object. This is stated in two ways by VP
in term of consciousness and existence.  The perceptuality of the object is when the
consciousness of the subject is not different from the substantiality of the object.
‘pramAtRi caitanyaH Eva ghaTa adhiShTAnam ..’, ‘the consciousness of the subject
alone forms the substantive of the pot etc.’ Here VP uses as the word ‘substantive’
or adhiShTAnam,  instead of ‘consciousness’ of the pot, since pot is inert. For
perception, we are uniting in terms of reflected consciousness of the subject and
the object. VP also states this in terms of existence as – ‘perceptual object has no
independent existence apart from the existence of the subject’, ‘pramAtRi satta Eva
ghaTAdhi satta, na anyaH’ (VP makes an emphatic statement here that existence of the
knower alone is expressed as the existence of the pots, etc).  Hence the above two
criteria forms the basis of the immediate and direct perception of an object by a
subject. The above conditions are expressed in terms of subject, since subject is
independent while the object has dependent existence, as discussed above.  Hence the
perceptuality of objects such as pots etc is established as direct and immediate
means of knowledge– ‘siddham ghaTAdeH aparokshatvam’. VP says the definition of
perceptuality of an object is vindicated. Hence perceptuality of an object is
defined as its being the same as consciousness or existence of the subject, the
knower. This can be viewed as subject’s consciousness forms the substantive of the
object perceived or subject’s existence forms the basis for the existence of the
object perceived. I am there the whole universe is perceived and I am there the
existence of the whole universe established. Without me present who can establish
the existence of the universe or its awareness. Ultimately I alone form the truth of
the Universe – where I am stands for pure existence-consciousness, Brahman that I
am. That is advaita Vedanta.  

In the case of inference – as in ‘the distance hill is on fire because I see the
smoke’- VP says, since the mind does not go to the space covered by the fire, etc.,
the limiting consciousness of the fire is not united with the limiting consciousness
of the knower, the existence of the fire is not directly established.  It is
distinct from the existence of the subject. Hence the definition of perceptuality in
terms of immediate and direct knowledge of the object is not violated. In terms of
our understanding it is the same as the VRitti of the fire that is formed has no
attributive knowledge from the sense input to establish the existence of the object,
fire. Hence fire is only a mental deduction. Whether there is really fire in the
distant hill or not depends on the efficacy of the deductive logic, hence it is
mediate and indirect. 

Before we discuss about the structure of the mind, VP presents some discussion in
terms of questions and answers, which we will take up next. 

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