[Advaita-l] The deniability of perception

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Sun May 21 06:31:50 EDT 2017


A common complaint against advaita is that in deeming jagat as mithyA, it
is going against a reality that is intimately experienced on an everyday
basis. How can such a conclusion arrived at by shruti and anumAna
contradict pratyaksha?

Moreover, anumAna is always based on pratyaksha - when we say that anumAna
reveals that this mountain is on fire, solely due to smoke seen in the
mountain, such an inferential process is founded on the perception of smoke
in the present, and by the perception of smoke in concomitance with fire,
observed in the past. If you deny the pramANatvam, the validity of
pratyaksham, that will also thereby deny the pramANatvam of anumAna, which
is based on the validity of the perception that underlies it.

Madhusudana Sarasvati considers this question in a chapter of Advaita

ननु 'सन् घट' इत्याद्यध्यक्षबाधितविषया दृश्यत्वादय-इति चेन्न ; The
pUrvapakshi asks - how can pratyaksha, which confirms the existence of
everyday objects - for example, when we say "this pot is", that knowledge
is accepted as valid (pramA) even by the advaitin - That being the case,
how can such valid knowledge be contradicted by the anumAna of jagat
mithyAtva, established by drishyatva and other such hetus, according to
which, all objects of the world, including the pot in question, do not
exist in any period of time?

The siddhikArA's answer to this question, and the central line of argument
of this chapter, is very illuminating.

He says:
चक्षुराद्यध्यक्षयोग्यमिथ्यात्वविरोधिसत्त्वानिरुक्ते:|  The satyam, the
existence, which is perceivable by the senses (eyes etc.) does not
contradict the mithyAtva established by anumAna and shruti. The satyam
which is contradictory to mithyAtva, is not perceivable by the senses.

What is satyam? न तावत् प्रमाविषयत्वम्, तद्योग्यत्वं, भ्रमाविषयत्वं वा
तादृक्सत्त्वं - it is a) not that which is the object of valid knowledge,
pramA, b) it is not that which is yogya, capable of being a pramA viShayam
c) nor is it that which is not the object of bhramam, invalid knowledge.

Why not?

चक्षुराद्यगम्यभ्रमप्रमाघटितत्वेन चक्षुराद्ययोग्यत्वात्,
Both pramA and bhrama are not cognizable by the eyes etc, therefore if
pramaviShayatvam or bhramA aviShayatvam are the definitions of satyam,
prama and bhramA being incapable of being known by pratyaksham, satyam also
is incapable of being known by pratyaksham.

वक्ष्यमाणदूषणगणग्रासाच्च | even if we accept satyam is knowable by
pratyaksham, it is not a virodhi to mithyAtvam, and we are going to explain
the defects of this.

नाद्य:, असति प्रमाणाप्रवृत्ते: प्रमाविषयत्वात्प्राक् सत्त्वस्य वक्तव्यत्वेन
तस्य तदन्यत्वात्, सत्त्वनिरूपणम् विना सदर्थविषयत्वरूपप्रमात्वस्य निरूपणे
चान्योन्याश्रयात्, We cannot define satya as pramA viShayam, the object of
right knowledge - because pramA cannot be admitted to objectify asat
(absolutely non-existent things). That being the case, one has to
presuppose that there is a category called satyam, even before it became an
object of pramA. An object does not become satyam because a pramA
objectifies it. Rather, a jnAna becomes valid (pramA) because it
objectifies sat correctly. Hence satyam cannot be defined in terms of an
objectifying pramA. Further, if you say sattvam is that which is pramA
viShayam, and then define pramA as that which objectifies sat objects, then
you have mutual dependence or anyonya Ashraya doSha.

नापि द्वितीय:, योग्यताया अनिरूपणात्  It cannot be the second, ie that which
is capable of being a pramA viShayam. In addition to suffering from the
faults of the previous definition, the very term yogyam, has not been
established yet.

न तृतीय:, असिद्धे:, सर्वस्यैव क्षणिकत्वादिना भ्रमविषयत्वाभ्युपगमात्  | It
cannot be that which is not the object of bhramam (invalid knowledge)
because according to some philosophers like the bauddhas, everything is
kshaNikam, and therefore everything is the object of invalid knowledge.
Hence, everything is bhrama viShayam, leading to asiddhi - such a
definition is not applicable anywhere.

अतएव नासत्त्वाप्रकारकभ्रमाविषयत्वमपि ; There are some other philosophers
who hold that asat objects are the objects of bhrama jnAna. They may define
satya as that which cannot be the object of such a bhramA (that objectifies
asat). However, even such a negative definition of sat is not possible.
अन्योन्याश्रयाच्च | because of anyonyAshraya. You are saying sat is that
which is not asat. However to know asat, you have to know sat. There is
mutual dependence in the definitions of sat and asat.

नापि सत्त्वप्रकारकप्रमाविषयत्वम्; it cannot be prakArakam (adjective) in
the pramA. For example, in the pramA "ghaTa: san", san is the prakAram
(visheShaNam), ghaTa: is the noun (visheShyam). The pot is the object of
"ghaTa: san" pramA. So if you define sattvam as that (e.g pot) which is the
object of a pramA that has sattva as the prakAram,
आत्माश्रयात् | it will lead to AtmAshraya doSha - sattvam is
sattvaprakAraka pramA viShayatvam. The definition contains itself.

नाप्यसत्त्वप्रकारकभ्रमाविषयत्वं सत्त्वं,अन्योन्याश्रयात् | suppose you say
sat is that which is not the object of a bhramA which has asat as the
adjective. For example, in the "ghaTa: asan" bhramam, asan is the
prakArakam. You cannot define sat as that which is not the object of asatva
prakAraka bhramam, because, like before, it leads to anyonya Ashraya doSha.

नापि प्रतिपन्नोपाधौ त्रैकालिकसत्त्वनिषेधविरह:, आत्माश्रयात् | You cannot
say sat is that which is not mithyA as defined by the advaitin (that which
is not present in any of the three periods of time in the locus of its
appearance). Why? Because the definition of mithyA presupposes the concept
of existence - it is "that which is not existing...". If you now say satyam
(existence) is that which is not mithyA, that is equivalent to saying
existence is that which is not "not existent", which is again self
referential, Atma Ashraya.

Until now, we looked at definitions of satyatva that can be said to be
viruddha to mithyAtva, but we found that they were not pratyaksha yogya -
1) all these definitions suffer from internal contradictions themselves,
rendering them incapable of contradicting mithyAtva.

2) even if you ignore their internal contradictions and postulate a satyam
based on these which contradicts jagat mithyAtva, they all are based on the
concepts of the pramA and bhramam, ie the validity and invalidity of the
cognition, which itself is not perceivable by the senses at all. Thus if
the validity and invalidity of cognition is not perceivable, why should the
satyatvam of the objects revealed by the cognitions be itself perceivable?

The chapter continues to look at different conceptions of a satyam that is
pratyaksha yogya, but is proven to be not viruddham to mithyAtvam. I hope
to write a bit about them in the days to come.


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