[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge - 11

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 24 09:07:31 CDT 2008

(We are discussing Vedanta ParibhASha (VP) of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra,
based on my understanding.) 

          11. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions

The Components of the Mind:

The mind itself, if considered as mental state with its attributes, has
four components. They can be considered as four states of the mind; (a)
a doubting mind, (b) a determinate mind, (c) egoism, and (d) memory.
Because of the diversity of their functions, mind, although is one, is
considered as having four components, collectively referred also as
just the mind. These are designated as 1) manas, or (emotional) mind,
2) the intellect or buddhi, 3) the ego or ahankaara, and 4) memory or
chitta.  Since we can think of them as mental states or vRittis, the
corresponding objects of the vRittis respectively are (a) doubts and
emotions (b) concepts, knowledge or certitude (c) egoism and (d) memory
or smRiti. 

Determinate and indeterminate perceptions:   

The direct perception is of two types: (a) determinate or savikalpaka
and (b) indeterminate or nirvikalpaka. In the case of determinate
perception, the knowledge gained is directly relatable in terms of the
substantive and its attributes.  The knowledge of the object perceived
has determinism associated with it. Consider perception of ‘This jar’.
When the knowledge occurs through perception, we have a determinate
knowledge as ‘I know the jar’ – a relation between the subject and the
object is immediately established. That is a determinate knowledge,
according to Advaita. 

In the indeterminate perception, knowledge gained is not directly
relatable to the subject.  That is a determinism that ‘I know this’ is
not discretely present. Let us take a classic example – ‘This is that
Devadatta (sOyam dEvadattaH)’.  In this case – we have two components –
‘this is Devadatta’ and ‘that was Devadatta’ – but combined into a
unitary statement ‘this is that Devadatta’.  Here ‘this’ refers to the
present and here, and ‘that’ refers to the past and there. Therefore
the knowledge of ‘that Devadatta’ has to come from memory. ‘This
Devadatta’ is directly perceived since object is right in front
available for pratyaksha pramANa, where the criteria for perceptuality
are directly fulfilled.  There is no problem in just perceiving this
Devadatta in front since that is determinate perception.  But the
statement ‘this is that Devadatta’ involves an equation of this mental
state corresponding to the present with the recollection of that
Devadatta from the memory.  The attributes of this Devadatta and that
Devadatta are different since they belong to different times and space.
Hence the equation gives only indeterminate knowledge. (Technically it
is called bhAgatyAga lakshaNa – wherein the contradictory attributes of
this Devadatta and that Devadatta are to be discarded equating only the
essentials that are common to both).  Similarly the Upanishadic
statement ‘That Thou art’ or ‘tat tvam asi’ – The ‘Thou (tvam)’ part of
the statement is directly perceivable but ‘That (tat)’ part that
designates the absolute reality is not deterministic, since it is not
finite.  One has to discard the dissimilar attributes of both ‘That,
tat’ and ‘Thou, tvam’ to arrive at the knowledge. Hence in these cases
the knowledge is called indeterminate. Further clarification of this
aspect is done through questions and answers.

Q. In the statement ‘This is that Devadatta’- the knowledge is based on
verbal comprehension and should not be considered as perception, since
it is not through sense organs. 
A. It is not so. We have already established that for a thing to be
perceived, its sense data are not the criterion. The criteria stated
are consciousness associated with the subject is not different from the
object when the object is present and perceivable. The object should
have attributes, but not necessarily gathered by senses.  In the case
of internal perceptions there are no tangible objects ‘out there’, and
therefore no sense-data. Yet, for internal perceptions like anger etc
the attributes of the vRitti are internal and not by sense-input.  In
the case of ‘this Devadatta’ who is right in front and is perceivable
through senses, the knowledge due to the sentence ‘this is that
Devadatta’ has for its object something connected with the sense organs
and the associated mental state formed has a limiting consciousness of
the object, Devadatta. In addition to the perceptual knowledge of this
Devadatta, the prior knowledge of ‘that Devadatta’ is also brought in
for the purpose of recognition of ‘this Devadatta’.  Cognition process
involving ‘this Devadatta’, and recognition process involving ‘that
Devadatta’ are both involved in the recognition of ‘this is that
Devadatta’.  The perceptual limiting consciousness of this Devadatta
where all the conditions of perceptuality are met is identified with
the information from memory for the purpose of recognition. It is the
recognition part that makes the perception indeterminate. 

Here we need to recognize that the cognition and recognition play in
sequence together.  When I say this is a jar, looking at the jar in
front, two aspects are playing a role. One is the cognition where
perceptuality condition is being met and I perceive the object jar with
its attributes as immediate and direct.  That this is a jar and not a
vase comes by the association with the knowledge in the memory.  The
memory involves the names and forms of a jar as well as a vase. 
Recognition that the cognized object is jar and not a vase comes by
process of matching the attributive content of the present vRitti with
the past knowledge of a jar and a vase to conclude that this is a jar
and not a vase.  Mind has the capacity for codifying the attributes as
it sees and uses it for recognition.  Suppose if I do not have the
knowledge of what a jar or a vase is, and when I see a jar for the
first time, there is only cognition but not recognition. Since the
memory is blank, as there no knowledge of jar or vase, I have knowledge
of only the cognized object.  If I now learn that it is a jar, that
information with its attributes is stored in the memory. Hence the next
time I see the same or similar object, not only cognition but
recognition also occurs immediately.  Here the cognition part is direct
and immediate and recognition part has to come from memory. It is a
common experience that we see some people and even recognize them, but
we do not remember the name of the person.  That is because it is said
that the brain stores the information of names, words and language in
one side and figures and pictures on the other.  Hence recognition of
the form is immediate but name has to come from different location.  It
is also said that language that is pictorial (Chinese and Japanese) the
names and forms are stored in the same side of the brain, and for them
recognition is faster.  This aspect is exploited in the early childhood
education, where language is taught with pictures; and pictures speak
thousand words.
In the statement ‘this is that Devadatta’, the cognition part is direct
and immediate since the object perceived is right in front.  But the
recognition part becomes a problem particularly if the attributive
content of this Devadatta and that Devadatta are unrecognizably
different. The indeterminacy comes from recognition process than from
the cognitive process. Hence VP says cognition is perceptual. The same
applies to ‘Thou art That’. The perception of ‘Thou’ is direct and
immediate since the subject itself is the object for cognition.  But
the indeterminacy comes from the recognition process where the
attributive content of ‘Thou’ is much different from the attributive
content of ‘That’, where ‘That’ stands for Brahman.
If one is closely familiar with ‘that Devadatta’ and showing this
Devadatta in front, if the teacher says ‘this is that Devadatta’,
because of the full faith in the teacher’s words, even though the
attributive knowledge of this and that Devadattas are different, the
student gains immediate and direct knowledge. He may wonder and say ‘
Oh! My God! What a change in Devadatta!’.  In the recognition, the
student is able to discard the contradictory qualifications of the
present and the past Devadatta, and still equate the essence to arrive
at the knowledge.  With the full faith in the teacher’s words, the
contradictory qualifications in this and that Devadattas are stripped
out to arrive at the unique knowledge.  The knowledge occurs directly
and immediately as one sees this Devadatta while hearing the statement
by the teacher.  The same is the case with ‘tat tvam asi or That thou
art’ statement.  Faith in the teacher’s words (words of the scriptures
expressed by a teacher who is trustworthy) as the student listens
(shravaNam) forms the basis for the direct and immediate knowledge as
Shankara says, ‘like the perception of fruit in the hand’ – indicating
the knowledge is perceptual and immediate. 

In contrast to ‘this is that Devadatta’, the difficulties here,
however, are compounded and more so when there is lack of complete
faith in the words of the teacher.  The difficulties arise, since
‘That’ has no attributes and whatever they are come from scriptures. 
The attributes are of indicative (lakshaNas) than cognitive. The
knowledge is still considered as direct perception for two reasons.
>From the point of ‘Thou’ it is immediate and ever present subject; and
the perceptuality criteria that consciousness of the subject is the
same as the object is immediately satisfied, since here subject is the
object and the identity is established.  From the point of ‘That’ is
also direct in the sense that the same consciousness is the content of
‘That’, since ‘that’ stands for Brahman, which is pure consciousness,
which is indivisible.   Hence ‘tat tvam asi’ or ‘Thou art That’ has to
be direct and immediate. The reason the knowledge does not take place
directly and immediately is erroneous and misconceived  attributes are
placed on both ‘Thou’ and ‘That’, making the knowledge of the identity
seems impossible. The spiritual study and practices involve the mind in
trying to get rid of these preconceived attributes assigned to both
terms ‘Thou’ and ‘That’. This getting rid of preconceived notions is
called ‘chitta suddhi’ or purification of the mind, where wrong notions
placed on both ‘Thou’ and That’ are dropped. If one thinks that
learning is difficult, the unlearning is even more difficult.  All the
spiritual practices are centered on unlearning process so that the
equation ‘Thou art That’ is understood or realized. 

Although ‘That art Thou’ involves immediate and direct knowledge,
realization that I am brahman does not occur for many. There are two
obstacles that prevent from the seeing the truth as the truth.  They
are called samshaya and viparya.  Samshaye means doubt that can arise
if there is no faith in the word of the scriptural statement – That art
Thou. To remove this, mananam or reflection on the Vedantic truth is
recommended.  The second obstacle is the viparya that is habitual
thinking of deep rooted notions that I am this body, mind and
intellect. The day to day transactions essentially endorse this notion.
 For that contemplation on the truth – That art Thou – is recommended. 
Both mananam and nidhidhyaasanam do not produce new knowledge but
eliminate the obstacles that prevent the assimilation of the truth that
I am.  Hence fundamentally the statement ‘That art Thou’ inderminate
but comes under direct perception since subject is the object of

The other philosophers view the determinate and inderminate perceptions
differently and we will examine them to see clearly why advaitic
position is correct. This will be done as we address additional
questions raised related to the topic.

Q. ‘Thou art That’ is verbal instructional statement. In any verbal
communication, for knowledge to take place, one has to understand the
relationship implied between the words based on the sentence structure.
In Sanskrit the declensions of the words provide immediate
relationships – the subject and its qualifications and the object and
its qualifications and the action verb relating the two.  When the
relationships between the words are obvious how can the verbal
communication be indeterminate? 

A. VP says to understand the intended meaning of the sentence, the
relationships between words alone is not sufficient.  There are simple
sentences where direct meaning is obvious and makes sense. In that case
the verbal communication with the word relationships provide the direct
meaning.  Take for example, ‘Rama is Dhasaratha’s son’ – The meaning is
straight forward that can be obtained from word relationship.  In the
statements – ‘This is that Devadatta’ or ‘That Thou art’ – the direct
meaning using the relationship between the words would not make sense.
One has to look for the intended meaning.  In some cases, if one
considers just relationships between the words without understanding
the proper context in which the verbal statement is made, there is
every possibility to reach unintended meaning.  Take for example a
cricketer saying to his friend, ‘please bring me a bat’.  Looking at
the sentence and observing the word meaning and the relationship
between the words, if his friend brings him a flying quadruped bat, he
missed the intended meaning. Contextual understanding is also very
important in verbal communication. In the statements ‘this is that
Devadatta’ – to understand the sentence one has to have prior knowledge
of that Devadatta, otherwise the intended identity of this Devadatta
and that Devadatta is not understood. If one has no knowledge of that
Devadatta, ‘this is that Devadatta’ would not make any sense. 

In relation to the sentence ‘Thou art That’ – the verbal instructional
statement by a teacher to his student comes after many passages
starting with preposition that ‘by knowing one thing everything else is
as though known- Eka vijnAnEna sarva vijnAnam bhavati’ – particularly
knowing the material cause, all the effects produced by that cause are
known.  This is similar to saying that by knowing gold all the
ornaments of gold are ‘as though’ known, since all the ornaments are
nothing but gold alone with different names and forms. In extending
this application, the teacher first establishes that the material cause
for the entire universe is Existence, Brahman, alone. Hence the teacher
says – ‘this universe, my dear, was but existence alone in the
beginning’.  Thus existence is the material cause for the universe like
gold for ornaments. The whole world is nothing but existence alone but
with different names and forms perceived as objects. Hence if we know
‘Existence’ everything in the universe is as good as known.  Hence the
question arises, where is that existence for us to know.  The teaching
terminates with the instructional statement – that is the truth, that
is real, and that is the self, and ‘Thou art That’ O’ Swetaketu. Hence
the intended purport of ‘That’ in the sentence is the Brahman, the
material cause for the universe which is of the nature of pure
consciousness-existence. And ‘That’ Brahman you are. The intended
meaning relays on the correct understanding of what ‘That’ stands for. 
In addition, the context of what ‘Thou’ stands for also has to be
understood. If contextually ‘That’ includes the substantive of all this
universe of names and forms which includes the subtle as well as gross
bodies as the teacher explains, then ‘Thou’ that stands for self or
Atma which appears to be different from the universe of names and
forms.  The sentence ‘Thou art That’ equates these two apparently
dissimilar entities. Hence to make sense of this equation, one has to
drop all dissimilarities or contradictory qualifications of ‘That’ and
‘Thou’ and equate the essence of both, the process known as bhAga TyAga
lakshaNa – that is renouncing the unnecessary or superficial parts of
both and equating only the substantial parts.  Since the intended
meaning of the sentence has to be understood than the direct meaning,
it is called indeterminate knowledge. 

VP quotes a sloka from Tatva pradIpikA of Citsukhi Acharya, which
states that in the sentences that convey identity relations, one has to
take the substantive meanings for the words than the superficial
meanings to recognize or realize the identity that is conveyed by the
sentences.  In the sentence ‘this is that Devadatta’ the identity of
this Devadatta and that Devadatta is implied in the sentence.  Based on
Citsukhi’s statement, we recognize that we need to equate the
substantiality of this Devadatta and that Devadatta and not the
superficial attributive qualities. The identity is therefore only with
respect to the essence of this and that Devadatta and not the external
changing non-substantive qualities. Within the vyavahaara, the essence
of both this Devadatta and that Devadatta is individual, who is jiiva
and is changeless in spite of  changing BMI with age.  Similar identity
is implied in the relation ‘Thou art That’. The substantiality of both
‘Thou’ as well as ‘That’ is ‘existence-consciousness’ and therefore the
identity is only with respect to the substantives and not in terms of
adjectives. The contradictory attributes prevent the recognition of the
identity unless one can strip out the contradictory qualifications of
‘Thou’ and ‘That’.  In the case of ‘this is that Devadatta’ the
stripping process is easier since Devadatta is object detached from the
subject.  However in the case of ‘Thou art That’, the stripping of the
qualifications are difficult due to deep-rooted habitual association of
the attributes with the locus. Hence, the indeterminacy in all verbal
statements involving identity comes due to difficulties in overlooking
the obvious adjectives of both relata to identify the identity only in
the substantives. 

The VishiShTAdvaitic Position: 

We present here some aspects of other philosophical positions related
to determinate and indeterminate perceptions, for purpose of
comparison.  It is also interesting to view how advaitic position is
viewed by vishiShTadvaitin.  In tatva muktA kalApa, Vedanta Desika
(13th Century) states Advaitic position as puurvapaksha, as reported by
S.M. Sreenivasa Chari, in Fundamentals of VishiShTAdviata Vedanta. 
According to Vedanta Deshika, Advaitin’s position is that the first
contact of the sense organs with the object reveals the mere existence
(SAT) devoid of all attributes, while subsequent contact reveals
objects with attributes. Former is indeterminate and the later is
determinate perceptions. Hence according their understanding, Advaita
has two stage perception the first involves the perception which is
indeterminate, implying non-attributive involving the perception of
mere existence and the second stage of perception involves attributive.
After stating their understanding, they criticize that understanding.
Vedanta Deshika says that perception of an object devoid of attributes
is a psychological myth. Ramanuja also points out that apprehension of
mere  ‘being’ or existence without any attributes does not takes place
any time and such an experience is impossible since all cognitions are
in terms of ‘this is such and such’. Nothing can be perceived without
attributes. Hence even indeterminate perception has to be attributive.
If both determinate and indeterminate perceptions are attributive then
where is the distinction between the two, asks VishiShTadvaitin? If we
pose the question the other way that if both determinate and
indeterminate perceptions are attributive then what is the difference
between the two? Ramanuja accounts that indeterminate perception is the
first time perception of an object – For example, when the child sees a
cow and mother says ‘that is a cow’.  He grasps the object and the
attributes and store in his memory – since this is the first time a cow
has been seen, he stores that attributive knowledge in his mind. When
he sees another cow and third cow, he slowly recognizes the generic
features of the cow that makes a cow a cow and not a horse. Hence
according to vishiShTaadvaitic position, the first time perception that
involves no recognition process is an indeterminate perception, while
the subsequent perceptions that involves not only cognition but
recognition based on memory is determinate perception.  Although both
cognitions are attributive in the first one there is no recognition
while in the subsequent perceptions there is one. The cognition,
recognition and generic attributes (jAti) of Cow in contrast to that of
a horse, etc are involved in the inderminate vs determinate perception.
This is the vishiShTaadvaitic position.

There is nothing wrong with the vishiShTaadvaitic position in
classifying the first time vs the subsequent perceptions respectively
as indeterminate vs determinate, but clearly their criticism of
Advaitic position is unfounded. According to the foot note provided by
S.M.S Chari – ‘This is the view criticized by Ramanuja’. S.M.S. Chari
says, according to later advaitin, as stated in Vedanta ParibhASha,
indeterminate perception is non-relational knowledge of the perceived
object and determinate perception is relational knowledge. As an
example of the former, the verbal statement – ‘this is that Devadatta’
where indicated identity of substantive is to be understood discarding
the differences in attributive knowledge of this and that Devadatta.
S.M.S. Chari says this view is also rejected by Vedanta Deshika on the
ground that memory involving prior perception (pratyabhijna) of that
Devadatta is also determinate in character and therefore does not refer
to identify of the essentials. Reference is given to Vedanata Deshika’s
‘Sarvartha Siddhi’.  We note that Vedanta Deshika also has written
SatadhUShani, hundred defects in Advaita Vedanta, and one of them is
related to the inderminate perceptions. 

The criticism of Vedanta Deshika related to indicative meaning implied
in the statement ‘this is that Devadatta’ is also not justified.  The
indeterminacy is not from the pratyabhijna or deterministic aspect of
prior cognition of ‘that Devadatta’.  The problem in the identity
statement is ‘this is that Devadatta’, the identity is not exact. Each
cognition by itself, i.e. ‘that Devadatta’ and ‘this Devadataa’
independently are deterministic. The problem arises in the identity of
these two, implied in the statement, ‘this is that Devadatta’. The
reason is that Devadatta that was cognized long time ago who was so
cute and handsome looking boy is this Devadatta who is ugly looking fat
individual.  Hence attributes of the two do not match and therefore
there is no identity in the attributive knowledge of the two
Devadattas, even though the perception is determinate by itself.  Hence
the identity of the two is not obvious to have deterministic cognition
of the identity. When the teacher says ‘this is that Devadatta’ – what
is involved is a faith in the knowledge of the teacher who made that
statement that it is true and to cognize the identity using bhAga
tyAgam or discarding the contradictory qualifications of this and that
Devadattas and unifying only the essentials. Those who knew that
Devadatta and now seeing this Devadatta, and with the verbal statement
that this is that Devadatta, the identity is immediate and direct. The
recognition process requires rejection of contradictions in the
attributive knowledge. This is normal experience and therefore
criticism of advaitic position is baseless. 

The above criticism has lot more bearing in the analysis of the Vedic
statement ‘That art Thou’ , wherein the identity involves discarding
the contradictory qualifications of ‘Thou’ and ‘That’ and unifying only
the essentials. Before the statement was made, Upanishad itself
provides the justification for the rejection of the superimposed names
and forms to see the identity by saying all objects are their cause
itself in different forms- vAchArambhanam vikArO nAmadhEyam – The
differences are only at the level of words or speech involving
attributes and not in substantives. It is similar to the statement ‘All
ornaments in essence are the same and therefore ring is necklace’
referring to gold ring and gold necklace. The attributes of the ring
and the necklace are different and therefore implied identity is not at
that level. Deterministically ring is different from necklace.
Therefore the identity is only at the substantive level since both are
nothing but gold.   As Citsukhi stated that in the verbal statements
involving identity relations the identity is implied only at
substantial level and not at attributive level. The indeterminacy is
inherent due to differences in the attributive knowledge. Therefore the
criticism of Advaitic position by Vedanta Deshika is also baseless. 

If one closely examines the VishiShTAdvaitic doctrine involved in the
analysis of ‘That art Thou’ statement, it also uses some kind of bhAga
tyAga to arrive at the identity relation (although they do not say so),
and there is indeterminacy involved in the understanding.  They use the
samAnAdhikarana between the attribute and the substantive as indicative
of the implied identity.  The attributes of Thou, jiiva, and those of
‘That’, parabrahma, are entirely different and distinct. Since,
according to them, ‘parabrahman pervades the whole universe of movable
and immovable as indweller or antaryAmin, in the implied identity
statement, one has to discard all the attributes of the ‘thou’ and only
equate the essence in all ‘thou’ as an indweller that pervades all
‘Thou-s’, since ‘Thou’ is part of ‘That’.  According to VishiShTAdviata
the indwelling part is only to be involved in the identity relation and
‘Thou’ itself constitutes an attribute of Parabrahman.  Since attribute
is inseparable from substantive, identity is to establish the oneness
in terms of substantive.  Taking the blue lotus as an example and
addressing the blue – ‘Thou art Lotus’, since blue is an inseparable
attribute of Lotus and depends on Lotus for its existence, referring to
an attribute is then to refer to its substantive; that is what they
imply as samAnAdhikaraNa. Without going into the validity of their
analysis and conclusion, we note that they are adopting a procedure
somewhat similar to bhAga tyAga that is discarding some parts to arrive
at the implied identity relation.  They are discarding the individual
attributes of the jiiva in identifying with Parabrahman, since jiiva is
the part of the later and depends on him, while being pervaded by it as
indweller. They are in essence following Citsukhi’s guidelines while
criticizing Advaitic stand.  Hence their criticism of Advaitic position
is unwarranted. 

Hari Om!

ps: I will be on travel from tomorrow returning to States. It may take
couple of days to have internet access. Will respond to discussions, if
need be, only after settling down.

Since the post is getting longer, it takes sometime to study for those
who are interested. 

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