[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge - 23

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 18 14:04:58 CDT 2008

We are discussing the Vedanta ParibhASha of Dharmaraja Advarindra, based on my understanding. 

                         Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge – 23

Some additional objections on erroneous perceptions:

In the perception of silver where there is nacre, the error arose due to adventitious defect or auxiliary causes such as insufficient light because of which only dominant attribute of silvery-ness was grasped by the senses. Based on that limited attributive data, knowledge of the object that ‘this is silver’ took place.  When that adventitious defect (poor illumination) is removed, the senses could then gather more accurate attributive content of the object for the mind to perceive it as nacre rather than the silver.  Hence in the knowledge of the true nature of the object as nacre, the previous knowledge that ‘this is silver’ is recognized as error.  VP says the object can be seen as it is, when the adventitious defects during perception are removed. 

Hence VP ascertains that silver seen in nacre is the result of ignorance of the true nature of the object, namely that it is nacre.  Expressed differently, the ignorance of the substantive contributes to the error in perception where one thing is taken for the other –atasmin tat buddhiH - which in Vedantic terminology is called adhyaasa. 

Thus we have two levels of ignorance involving ignorance of the substantives.  One is the ignorance of Brahman which is the substantive of all objects, which is general ignorance or saamaanya avidya, or muula avidya, which is fundamental in all perceptions of objects.  Here, both the objects that are perceived and the mind that perceives with the help of consciousness are in the same order of reality. Perception of silver, where nacre is, is due to the second order ignorance. It arises due to ignorance of the substantive only, here the substantive in this relative frame is not Brahman directly but Brahman in the form of nacre.  This ignorance is considered as visheSha avidya or specific ignorance wherein we do not know that it is nacre and mistake it as silver. When adventitious defect is removed, knowledge that it is silver is sublated with the rise of knowledge of the relative substantive, nacre.  However, the perception that it is nacre is also due to
 ignorance and that false or mithyaa knowledge can be eliminated only when the substantive of nacre is known as nothing but Brahman, since at absolute level there is nothing other than Brahman or pure consciousness.   Nacre is nothing but consciousness limited by the form (with all other attributes) of nacre, since the scripture says there is nothing other than Brahman, neha naanaasti kincana.  At the relative level, the silver seen in the nacre is due to secondary ignorance that is abiding in consciousness limited by nacre. This means at relative level ignorance that it is ‘nacrey-consciousness’ (that is consciousness in the form of a nacre as in ‘ringly-gold’ or gold in the form of a ring) contributes to the perception of ‘silvery-consciousness’ (consciousness in the form of silver). The relative knowledge will only eliminate the relative ignorance and not the absolute ignorance, i.e. the ignorance of Brahman or ignorance that the
 existence-consciousness that I am is Brahman). 

When I see nacre as nacre, the silver that was seen is nullified, along with the ignorance of nacre, by the knowledge that silver that was seen before is, in fact, nacre only. This knowledge manifests as ‘there is no silver there’ and ‘the silver that I saw was indeed nacre only’. The ignorance of the first kind, that everything is nothing but Brahman, will get nullified only with the knowledge of the substantive Brahman.  Here ignorance of the second kind that it is silver gets nullified when the relative knowledge that it is nacre takes place. As was pointed out above that it is not the destruction of the object but destruction of the auxiliary causes which prevented the knowledge of the relative truth of the object. It was noted before that that ‘this is silver’ is also formed due to the perception via sense input of the silvery-ness of the object when the perceptuality condition is met. Implication is that substantive for the silver
 perception in the mind is nothing but limiting consciousness-existence as saakshii. However in the perception of the silver as this is silver, there is only knowledge of the mental impression of ‘this’ and no knowledge of this substantive (consciousness-existence, saakshii) of the vRitti in the mind.  As the knowledge of the substantive limiting-existence-consciousness is not there either in the dream perceptions or in the perception of silver where nacre is (that is the fundamental avidyaa related to all objects), the knowledge of the relative substantive nacre arises only by elimination of the adventitious defect, such as poor illumination.  We will now address of the objections raised. 

Objection:  The objection is again from Naiyaayikas who consider the perception of silver where nacre is due to recollection of real silver existent somewhere and not perception of non-existent silver there. Hence the following question is framed from their perspective.  

If we admit that the illusory existence for silver during the time that nacre appears as silver, there would never be a subsequent knowledge at any time (past, present or future) that can negate the illusory silver appearance in the form ‘this is not silver’ but only in the form, ‘Now, it is not silver’ – it is like ‘Now, that is after baking, the jar is no more black’.  That is blackness of the jar existing before is now removed due to baking. Blackness of the jar was real until it is removed. Hence existence of black before and its non-existence after are of the same order of reality. 

The objection is that the negation ‘it is not silver’ can be made only if previously the silver that was perceived was real; and now we can dismiss that perception by a realistic statement that there is no real silver. The argument is simple; that there is no silver or the non-existence of silver now – can only be counter positive or opposite to the statement - there was real silver before. The non-existence of silver now is real, since it is nacre and not silver. The objector says the non-existence of silver which is real can only be counter positive to or opposite to existence of real silver before.  It cannot be counter positive to existence of imaginary or illusory silver before. ‘Illusory existence’ can be counter positive only to ‘illusory non-existence’. Similarly ‘real non-existence’ can be counter positive to ‘real existence’ and not to ‘illusory -existence’ as implied in the statement ‘it is not silver’ as it
 negates only the real existence not illusory existence. 

Reply: That is not so.  Here when we say ‘it is not silver’ when nacre is perceived as nacre, we are not negating real or a relative transactional reality, silver, that is characterized by its silvery-ness. Therefore, non-existence that is denied by ‘it is not silver’ does not refer to real (within vyavahaara) silver anywhere, but only to the false silver that is seen in the object. Thus false silver is falsified by the statement ‘this is not silver’ not the real silver that has silvery-ness associated with it. Technically, the counterpositive (pratiyogin)  or opposite, of this non-existent ‘real-illusory’ silver, can never exists (if we say it exists, would imply that ‘illusory silver’ exists and that would lead to illusory silver is no more illusory).  It is similar to saying that ‘there is no cloth existing as jar’. Here jar-hood property is different from cloth-hood property. What is denied is false attribute of jar-hood in
 the cloth. Jar-hood is a distinguishing quality that is specific to a jar and not to a cloth.  Hence negation of a false ‘jar-hood’ is always satisfied by any cloth, since there is never a jar-hood in any cloth. Similarly the negation of silvery-ness can always be fulfilled in any nacre. It may look like silver from a distance but it is never silver even when I am mistaking it as silver.  Hence it is not denial of silver in the nacre when I say that it is not silver when I recognize that it is nacre, but denial of false silver that is attributed to the nacre due to adventitious defect. Hence once I know that it is nacre, even if I see shining attributive silvery-ness in the nacre, it will never be mistaken for silver since there is no ‘silver-hood’ in the silver at any time. 

VP says false attribute (silvery-ness) abiding in a different substratum (nacre), where there is never an existence of the real object (silver) that always has silvery-ness as its real attribute, is permitted as vyadhikaraNa. When the silvery-ness is denied with the negation that ‘there is no silver here in the nacre that is seen’, the negation applies not to the real silver but to the false silver, which is illusory. It is similar to that there is no jar-hood in the cloth. The absence of silver in the nacre is always met in the past, present and future, and also even when it is mistaken as silver. I can even enjoy the silvery-attribute of nacre, even after denying that there is no silver here but only a nacre.  Similarly, I can enjoy the attributive objects in the world, even after knowing that all objects are nothing but Brahman.  The false world gets falsified and not that ‘a real world’ is falsified (even though we mistake the false world as
 real world) in the awakening of the knowledge that everything is nothing but Brahman. In fact only the false world that can get falsified by knowledge and not any real world; and if there is such a real world it will never get falsified since it is real (that is the definition of a real entity). Similarly only the false silver can get falsified when the true nature of the substantive of the object, namely nacre, is known.  We can say it is the vibhuuti of the nacre to have a silvery shining-ness without being silver. Similarly it is the vibhuuti of the Iswara or the Lord with attributes of variety of magnificent world of objects without substantially becoming objects or while remaining as attribute-less and part-less Brahman.  That is the essence of vibhuuti yoga in Bhagawat Gita (Ch.10).

Objection: The next objection becomes little bit more technical here.  The objector gives two choices. The objector asks that when one perceives the illusory silver in the nacre, whether the absolute existence as substratum of the illusory silver is known or unknown.  As per Vedanta, when we say an object ‘is’, the Brahman, the absolute reality expresses as existence in the ‘is-ness’ of the object, as its substantive.  In the form of ‘is-ness’ the absolute reality (as though) lends its existence or relative reality to the object.  Hence the objector asks, in the perception of the illusory silver, does one have the knowledge of its absolute existence. If the answer is no, then it means that the absolute existence of illusory silver that has silvery-ness as its attributive content is not known (since existence of an object is established by the knowledge of its existence). If so, then the absence of or non-existence of illusory silver cannot be
 perceived either. It means, if the existence is not perceived then its non-existence also cannot be perceived. Hence, one cannot make a statement that there is no illusory silver here. The objection is similar to saying that if the existence of gaagaabuu is never known, then the statement that there is no gaagaabuu here also has any meaning, since absence of a non-existent object can never be perceived.

Taking the second alternative, if the absolute existence of the illusory silver is known with the attribute of silveryness, since the perception depends on the existence (perceptuality condition involves the existence of the object is united with the subject consciousness), then it is not an illusory silver any more, since it exists like nacre and is perceived by its silveryness.  Therefore silver that has silveryness will have to exist in the nacre or with the nacre. Therefore its existence cannot be denied by the statement ‘there is no silver here’, as it is perceived and its existence is already known.  

Reply:  The above arguments are not correct from advaitic perspective.  The pure existence manifests in the nacre as ‘nacre is’. The ‘is-ness’ or the absolute existence forms the substantive for the nacre. This possibility comes from the scriptural statement that every thing is Brahman and Brahman is pure existence without a second. If that possibility forms a basis for the existence of the apparent nacre (first order) within vyavahaara, which is not absolutely real, then the same possibility forms the basis for (the second order) appearance of the illusory silver.  We do not admit the first order silver (the real silver) in the nacre since there is no silver-hood present in the nacre. Thus the pure existence in the form of ‘silver-hood is’ in the nacre is not admitted since it is not there. Here we need to differentiate the vyavahaara silver (relative reality that ‘silver is’) and illusory silver (prAtibhAsika ‘silver is’ as the
 mental projection). Nacre forms the substantive for the prAtibhAsika and for nacre, in turn, pure existence forms the substantive. Hence indirectly pure existence also forms the substantive for the illusory silver or prAtibhAsika silver.  The above objection is due to not clearly appreciating the vyaavahaarika and prAtibhAsika relative realities and their relative ontological status. 

We do, however, admit ‘transfer’ of attributes of one to the other (both of the same order of reality) constituting an error, where the thing that is superimposed is not directly connected to the thing on which it is superimposed. That means they are relatively independent within the same order of reality.  For example, we can perceive the redness associated with hibiscus flower on the clear crystal since redness of the flower is connected to the argon of the vision.  That is, I can see the redness of the hibiscus of the flower as it is getting reflected by the crystal nearby. I may mistake that the crystal is red without realizing that the superimposed attribute of redness of the crystal comes from the nearby hibiscus flower. There is no origin of some imaginary redness or unaccountable redness or illusory redness in the crystal. 

Objection: Now the objector pushes the limit of the above example.  The objector says, in the above example where redness associated with the clear crystal is known to arise from the nearby hibiscus flower by the sense of vision. Hence the connection between the redness in the crystal and the redness due to nearby flower is established by the sense organ of vision.  Hence redness in the crystal is not created.  Now suppose, if I cannot see the hibiscus flower due to some obstruction, and therefore do not know that the redness is coming from a nearby flower, then if I can still perceive or cognize the redness in the crystal then one has to admit that the redness in the crystal is not real but is illusory (since we are ignorant of the source of redness). 

Reply: There is no problem.  We can accept that until the obstruction to perceive the flower is removed. We accept that it is illusory when we gain the knowledge or have the knowledge that crystal is always clear and all the colors that are seen are superimposition of attributes arising from objects elsewhere.  The bottom line is the knowledge is taken as real until we have a contradictory experience to negate that knowledge. This forms the general definition for validity of all perceptions.  Valid knowledge is that which is not contradicted by subsequent knowledge or experience. Absolute knowledge is that which remains absolutely real and never contradicted. Any other knowledge is relatively real until it is negated.  Vedanta says the knowledge of the relative world is only relative since from the absolute point they are nothing other than Brahman. Since the world is experience it is not unreal. Since it is neither real nor unreal, it is mithyaa. The
 prAtibhAsika is also comes under mithyaa like the silver that is experienced in the nacre. It is not taken as illusory silver until one goes and pickup the object and examines. No one goes after illusory silver, knowing that it is illusory. When silver is seen in the nacre, the silver seen is taken as real or valid until subsequent knowledge negates the reality assumed for the illusory silver.  Similarly the world appears to be real but gets negated only when we have the knowledge of Brahman, the substantive of the world. Then the apparent world becomes apparent like the silver is apparent in the nacre.  Hence we have paaramaarthika satyam, vyaavahaarika satyam and praatibhaasika satyam. Perceptions at these three levels have to be understood. 

We will next take the final topic in this section on ‘perception’. 

Hari Om!

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