[Advaita-l] [advaitin] rope has some problem in rope snake analogy :-)

Vikram Jagannathan vikkyjagan at gmail.com
Thu Dec 14 17:44:32 EST 2023

Namaskaram Shri Chandramouli ji,

Reg  // The snake is said to be imagined (as opposed to being pratyaksha or
> directly perceived) because this adhyasa is of the nature of remembrance
> (recollection) of an earlier experience in a different locus. In Vedanta
> Paribhasha, recollection is not accepted as pratyaksha pramana.//,
> Not in my understanding of the Bhashya. No doubt recollection is not
> accepted as pratyaksha pramana.

We can now start off on a common ground that recollection is not accepted
as pratyaksha pramana.

> That the snake is of the nature of remembrance (recollection) is akhyAti
> vAda of Mimamsaka (Prabhakara). This has been refuted in no uncertain terms
> by Sri Bhagavatpada.

Bhagavan Bhashyakara has provided the first definition of Adhyasa in BSB as
"smriti-rupa paratra purvadrishtavabhasa" - "(Superimposition) is a
cognition, on a different locus, having a nature similar to that of
recollection, and cognising what has been experienced earlier". The key is
"smriti-rupa", meaning, a nature of remembrance (recollection). Bhamatikara
further defines "smriti-rupa" as "smriteh rupamiva rupam yasyeti
smriti-rupah. asannihita-vishayatvam smritirupatvam." - "Its nature is like
the nature of recollection. The non-presence of the object is of the
essence of recollection."

With this, and the above common ground, adhyasa (nature of remembrance) is
not accepted as pratyaksha pramana in vyavaharika.

> In the Advaita Siddhanta as advanced by Sri Bhagavatpada, snake is
> actually *produced* by avidyA. It gains its status of *pratyaksha* because
> the experience is **It is a snake**. The *It is* part is *pratyaksha* in
> the sense it is pramAtru bhAsya while the snake part is *pratyaksha* being
> sAkshi bhAsya. Vedanta Paribhasha also mentions as follows while admitting
> this as pratyaksha
> // अत एव च प्रातिभासिकरजतस्थले रजताकाराविद्यावृत्तिः
> साम्प्रदायिकैरङ्गीकृता ।//
> // ata eva cha prAtibhAsikarajatasthale rajatAkArAvidyAvRRittiH
> sAmpradAyikaira~NgIkRRitA | //.

There is no denying that while there is the perception of a snake, and it
is not yet sublated by the perception of the rope, it does appear as if it
is a valid pramana for the cognizer. But this pramana is subject to
sublation, and when sublated becomes apramana. The above reference to
Vedanta Paribhasha exactly illustrates this point that even in the case of
a "pratibhasika" existence of silver in a shell, the perception of silver
is due to the avidya-vritti in the form of silver. This avidya-vritti is
vyavaharika kevala-sakshi-vishaya, but there is no object (silver)
corresponding to this in vyavaharika. Hence in Vedanta Paribhasha, this
silver is qualified as pratibhasika. The existence of a vritti gives the
snake / silver a relative reality and the non-existence of the object in
its locus at the vyavaharika level downgrades the ontological status to
only pratibhasika instead of vyavaharika. This also matches Shri Subbu ji's
reference to Bhashyakara accepting the pratibhasika object to be
'non-existent but appears to be existing'. Non-existent in its locus from
vyavaharika, and appears to be existing from pratibhasika. This point in
Vedanta Paribhasa occurs in the context "na hi vR^itti.n vinA
sAkShiviShayatva.n kevalasAkShivedyatvam.h
kintvindriyAnumAnAdipramANavyApAramantareNa sAkShiviShayatvam.h" where the
standard sensual perception is incapable of operating.

To summarize, we are not denying the actual experience of a snake cognized
as existing. We are only saying that a non-existing (in its locus) snake
appears to be existing. This 'appearance' is an experience that is
witnessed subjectively by the witness alone. This is so because the object
of experience is only created in antahkarana by avidya-vritti and not
actual vishya. Therefore, though the snake is 'created' by ignorance, it is
differentiated from other valid vyavaharika perceptions wherein the
antahkarana-vritti matches the vishya. Hence "imagined". This is again,
more of semantics and standpoint.

> Reg  // But this experience (prama) is not arising from a valid
> pratyaksha pramana //,
> Not exactly. Snake is sAkshi bhAsya. Are not hunger or thirst considered
> pratyaksha? They are so because they are sAkshi bhAsya.

Yes, experiences of hunger or thirst or happiness or sorrow are all
kevala-sakshi-vedya, but in all these cases the object of these experiences
(namely hunger, thirst, happiness, sorrow) are all true
kevala-sakshi-vishyas alone in the form of antahkarana-vritti identical to
the corresponding vrittis (hunger-vritti, thist-vritti, happiness-vritti,
sorrow-vritti). But in the case of the perception of a snake, the object in
question is technically a rope and thus the kevala-sakshi-vedya of the
snake does not match the actual vishaya. Snake too is only a mis-matched
kevala-sakshi-vishaya; hence pratibhasika only. That which is pramana in
pratibhasika alone, is apramana in vyavaharika.

> Reg // Being 'imagined' and 'experiencing as existing' are not opposites
> or mutually exclusive //,
> Not in my understanding. They are certainly mutually exclusive. *Imagined*
> excludes any corresponding vastu as *existing*.

Do you mean to say that 'imagined' can only be used with respect to
non-existing vastu such as hare's horns or sky-flower? If so, this is
different from my definition of 'imagined' as I stated earlier. Again, a
matter of semantics.

Moreover, proceeding with your definition of 'imagined', which excludes any
corresponding vastu as 'existing', how can there be an experience of
imagination of a non-existing vastu? If a non-existing vastu can be
experienced as an imagination, then as the object of imagination /
experience, the object does exist; and hence self-contradicts its

> Reg  // Ignorance is the material cause of illusion //.
> Are you considering Ignorance as a vastu (bhAvarUpa) or as absence of
> knowledge? The doubt arises because of your followup statement  ** because
> the cause is ignorance and not knowledge **. If vastu, then illusion also
> is a vastu. If not, then both it and illusion are not  vastu. So the
> question of one being the material cause of another does not arise.

Yes, I am aligned with both Vartikakara (particularly in the scope of
BUBV-1-4-371) and Vedanta-Paribhasa-kara (particularly in the context of
rajatakara-avidya-vritti) that avidya is bhava-rupa. It is not necessary
that the cause and effect should have the same ontological status. Here, in
rope-snake & shell-silver examples, the cause is a vastu in
vyavakarika standpoint and the effect is a vastu in pratibhasika standpoint.

However, since you asked this question, my personal understanding (looking
to check its validity based on our acharyas' teachings) is that avidya is
both abhava and bhava-rupa. The avarana aspect is abhava and the vikshepa
aspect is bhava-rupa. This is possible, without any self-contradiction,
because of the very nature of avidya. This seems to me to explain the
so-called contradictions within our system. At the day-to-day / empirical
level, avidya seems grosser and subject to modifications. But as we start
seeking inwards, the grossness turns subtler and eventually vanishes
altogether. This is like a piece of solid metal which appears rigid from a
day-to-day perspective, but deep within, at the subatomic / quantum level,
it is merely a gaseous cloud of subatomic particles. But I am seeking
validity from our sampradhayam and happy to stand corrected.

with humble prostrations,

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