[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -18

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 23 17:56:30 CDT 2008

We are continuing the discussion of Vedanta ParibhASha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra, as I understand. 

               Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge – 18

We are examining the analysis of error, taking the example of perception of silver where there is a nacre.  As we have addressed different khyAti vAdas, according to NayyAyikas the error is called anyathA kyAti (knowledge of silver existing in the memory that was perceived in the past is recognized here in the object, nacre. Thus both nacre and silver are real but that real silver that was seen at some other place and time is now seen in the wrong place where it is not there and that constitutes an error), while the advaitin ascribes the error as anirvacanIyam, inexplicable.  When I perceive the silvery shining-ness of an object, based on the attributive content of the vRitti formed, the object is perceived as ‘I see Silver and is out there- now’.  The perception of the silver out there is direct and immediate as my eyes fall on that shining object. Direct and immediate perception occurs like any other perception, since all the perceptuality
 conditions are met. Hence advaitin rejects NyAya’s theory of anyathA khyAti saying that the perception of silver is right now and right here as ‘here is silver’, and not ‘I am seeing that silver here that was perceived some other time and place’. The direct and immediate perception of silver is based on the current sense input, resulting in vRitti with the contents of the silver attributes. 

As I bend down and pick up the silvery object, I discover that it is a nacre and not a silver. By that subsequent transmigratory experience, knowledge of ‘this is silver’ is negated by the knowledge ‘this is nacre’.  ‘This is silver’ knowledge existed as definite knowledge until it was contradicted by transmigratory experience involving perception of nacre. Thus the subsequent transmigratory experience resulted in the knowledge that the silver I saw was not real.  Even though the knowledge of the silver is negated, the experience of silver that I saw is not negated. This is because experience is different from knowledge.  One can have experience with out having knowledge. From Vedantic point, we are experiencing Brahman all the time since everything is Brahman, but we have no knowledge that what we are experiencing is nothing but Brahman. Since the silver was experienced as existing out there, the silver is not unreal.  Unreal cannot be
 experienced.  Thus we have a situation, wherein silver is not unreal since it is experienced and it is not real since it is negated by the subsequence knowledge that is nacre.  Hence it comes under a new category called mithyA or false– which is neither real nor unreal. That is neither sat nor asat. Madhusuudana Saraswati in Advaita Siddhi discusses five definitions of falsity. The first definition of falsity or mityA comes from PancapAdika of Padmapaada  as ‘sat asat vilakshaNam, mityAtvam’ The nature of mithyA that it is different from existence, sat, and non-existence, asat; or sat asat anadhikaraNatvarUpam anircanIyatvam or  its inexplicability arise since it is based on neither existence nor non-existence. Many philosophers, including vedantins like Ramanuja and Madhva, reject this category saying that sat and asat are mutually exclusive sets. That is, what is not sat has to be asat and what is not asat has to be sat and there is no set that
 is exclusive or inclusive of both; that is there cannot be anything is both not sat or not asat; or fall under the category of both sat and asat.  Advaita does not subscribe to these demarcations.  There is no set that is inclusive of both but there is one that is exclusive of both. The reason is simple - They define real or sat is that which remains the same all the time – trikAla abhAditam satyam. The unreal or asat is defined as that which has no locus of existence at any time. Classical example for asat is vandhyA putraH or son of a barren women – there is no locus for existence of such an entity at any time for us to have any experience.  Hence unreal cannot be experienced.  Therefore one cannot have both sat and asat at the same time.  But there can be a third category which is experienced but does not remain the same all the time. It undergoes change with time, hence it cannot be real, since the definition of real is restrictive and does not
 allow any change.  Since it is experienced, at least momentarily, it cannot be called unreal, like a son of a barren woman.  In fact, the whole world comes under this category, as per advaita Vedanta, since the whole world is continuously changing without ever remaining the same, yet it is experienced.  Scripture supports this view saying that creation of the universe of names and forms involves transformation involving vivarta, that is, the material cause remaining the same during transformation while the products vikAra, are continuously changing. It is like gold transforming into verities of ornaments, while remaining as gold.  Given the gold and its ornaments, scripture says gold alone is real (loham iti eva satyam), implying that ontologically the ornaments have only a temporal existence and gold alone is real with respect to ornaments.  Since ornament is not permanent like gold, it does not fulfill the definition of real yet it has transactional
 utility (one can decorate oneself with a ring, bangle, etc), it is not unreal.  Hence advaitic stand that there is mithyA that is sat asat vilakshNam is supported by scriptural statement.  

In the silver/nacre example the realities are relative. For example, silver that I saw does not come under the category of asat or unreal since it is experienced. When it is negated by the knowledge that it is nacre, ‘silver that I saw’ is recognized as not real. Therefore it is mithyA in relation to nacre. While nacre itself is mithyA, in relation to the absolute since it is part of the world, created by Iswara – hence there was  time when it was not there.  Nacre is not created by me or by my individual mind. Hence nacre is called vyaavahaarika satyam or real within the realm of transmigratory experience.  

There is no need of bringing any metaphysical sinnikarsha (relation) that NyAya invokes to explain the error as due to confusion in the mind between the silver seen somewhere else with nacre that is there in front.  What was seen in front was initially recognized as silver, since nobody attempts to go after to get a false silver.  Silver seen was recognized as false only after the object is picked up and carefully examined.  This also brings to the point that when I do not have complete knowledge of the object that I see, that partial ignorance can contribute to the error in cognition.  

Let us analyze now the silver that I saw where the nacre is?  If we say that we experienced silver, therefore it is not unreal, the question that arises is how can we experience that which is not there. It is similar to experiencing a snake out there where there is really no snake out there but a rope.    If snake and silver we experienced come under vyaavahaarika satyam then it should be transactionally experiencable.  VyavahAra implies transaction.  What happed to the silver when I picked up the object and discovered that it is nacre? Should I say it disappeared from where it came? It is like snake disappearing when I find that it is rope. Where did the snake go, when I found it is a rope?  Of course, we know that snake was never there other than in the mind of the perceiver.  However the experience of the perceiver is not like that -  He would not say snake or silver is in my mind only. For him ‘the snake is out there (where rope is, since rope only
 is seen as snake) or silver is out there where nacre is.  One can say it is like prAtibhAsika, a mental projection of an object.  But that word – prAtibhAsika is normally reserved to the objects created by the mental projection as in dream state. Since we see the silver ‘out there’ where nacre is, it is not similar to inner mental projection as in dream objects. In the dream objects, which we call purely prAtibhAsika, both the seer and the seen are in the mind only.  But here, when I say there is a snake or there is a silver, the object is perceived as external to the mind as the perceptual knowledge. Because of that reason only I was motivated to go and try to pick it up, since silver is of value to me.  If it is external, then it cannot disappear into thin air.  This is the fundamental problem is all mithyA object which is neither real nor unreal.  Hence advaita Vedanta says it is anirvacanIyam, inexplicable, since any characterization of silver
 or snake as prAtibhAsika or vyaavahaarika also becomes a problem.  Ontologically, the status of silver is different from nacre, since one is considered as real, or more real, than the other.  Silver could disappear because there is no silver substantive there. But without the substantive silver, I could perceive the silver only because the perception is based on attributive content. The senses picked up the silvery-ness of the object by its shining and based on the attributive content of the vRitti it was concluded that it is silver.  Only when I picked up the object, other attributes corresponding to nacre are grasped by the senses to negate prior perception of silver as error.  Now we address some of the issues that were raised and answered in the form of objections in VP. 

Objection (by tArkikas): Yes.  By bending and picking up the object and observing, one recognizes that it is nacre and not silver.  Thus knowledge that was gained before ‘that it was silver’ is falsified in the subsequent effort to gain that silver in the current object seen.  Up to this point we also agree.  However how can one prove that the silver that was seen before falsification was not due to the real object silver seen in the past at some other place and some other time?  How can you see silver now, if you have not seen the silver before at some other time?  That silver that you have seen before must have been a real silver and not a false silver.  That real silver which existed before at some other place and time, you are seeing now when you perceive the nacre.  Hence the error is mistaken identity of that real silver perceived somewhere else, but now perceiving here where the nacre is, and therefore the error is anyathA khyAti.  As we could
 easily explain the error, there is nothing inexplicable or anirvachanIyam about it.  Both nacre and the silver that we saw before are real. Error arose only because of the confusion in the mind by associating the past real silver with the nacre, here.  That association occurs, we believe, is due to some extraordinary relationship at knowledge level (jnaana-lakshaNa-sannikarSha) between nacre knowledge and silver-knowledge. It is similar to seeing a sandal wood out there and concluding that it is a fragrant sandal wood, although one is seeing the sandal wood and not able to smell its fragrance now from a distance. Association of fragrancy with the sandal wood that is being seen comes from the memory of the previous knowledge that the particular sandal wood type is a fragrant-type. 

Response: Not so.  One cannot bring some arbitrary silver seen before for perception here without being associated with the current sense input. The perception is direct and immediate because it involves sensory input from the object that is directly in front, not remote in the memory.  The attribute of the silvery-ness is seen directly here and now, as one sees the object. This is the direct sense input.  When the vRitti is formed based on the attributive content, the perception that it is silver based on the silvery-ness noted by the organ of vision. Only when one tried to pick up the object, substantive silver was not found in the object seen, negating the validity of the silver perception. Silvery-ness is still noted in the object nacre but along with that silvery-ness which is superficial and unsubstantive; other attributes that belong to nacre are also perceived to negate to give new direct and immediate knowledge that is nacre and not silver.  

When the perception that ‘this is silver’ occurred because of direct sense-input of the silvery-ness of the object; the perception was direct and immediate. We do not agree with NayyAyikas position that the attributes of the silver seen in the current object are based on the perception of silver at some other time and place.  If, without direct sense input in the present, one can perceive the silver object based on the knowledge of the past that occurred at some other time and place, then by extension of this logic, we could perceive fire directly and immediately just by seeing smoke, without having any sense input of fire attributes. That makes inference as well as other means of knowledge obliterate as separate pramANas. 
NayyAyikas now question the validity of direct perception of silver as per advaitic position.  The question again boils down to substantive vs. attributive knowledge. 

Objection: In the absence of any substantive parts of the silver in nacre, how is it possible for one to say that ‘this is silver’ and that the perception of silver is direct and immediate. How is silver produced in the nacre, where there is no silver whatsoever? How can one say silver is directly and immediately perceived without any silver present in the object? Therefore silver has to come from the past knowledge only.  

Response: Normally for complete perceptual knowledge of an object all the asAdhAraNa or specific attributes are required to uniquely identify an object as this and not that. Some Objects sometimes have one or two unique or specific outstanding attributes that makes it stand out for identification of that object.  Shining aspect of silvery-ness is striking identification of all silver objects to the extent that any thing that is shining like silver is taken immediately as silver, unless it is proved other wise by subsequent observation. Similarly striking yellow gold color as an attribute of the gold is a dominant attribute to cognize the object as gold and not silver.  It could be a silver-plated object with very little substantiality of silver or gold plated object with very little substantiality of the gold. But based on the dominant attributes that the sense of vision perceives, the vRitti that is formed contains that attribute for immediate
 identification of the object as silver or gold, etc. These errors are therefore possible since knowledge is attributive and not substantive. Existence of parts of silver is not necessary as long as the objects shines like silver for one to perceive it as silvery object. Artificial diamonds can be perceived as real ones, except by a trained eye.  

Thus silvery shining of the nacre when seen from a distance, due to presence of that dominant attribute and lack of observation of any other attributes of nacre, the vRitti that is formed immediately has the attribute of silvery shining aspect of the object perceived and when the knowledge of the vRitti arises due to the normal process discussed before (i.e. involving illumination of the vRitti by the reflected consciousness and unity of the subject consciousness with the reflected consciousness of the object in the vRitti –  when the perceptuality conditions are met, etc.), cognition of the object silver and knowledge of the cognition occur.  
We will discuss next the topic from the point of vivarta (apparent transformation) in contrast to pariNAma (irreversible transformations) in relation to consciousness and the object of consciousness.  

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