[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -7

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 25 05:25:37 CST 2008

We are discussing my understanding of Vedanta ParibhASha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra
dealing with Epistemological issues in Advaita Vedanta in the order it is presented in
the book.                     
                     7. The Criteria for Cognition 

‘What is the criterion for perceptual knowledge’, that is, how or when the perceptual
knowledge is said to be complete.  Here we first provide the conventional understanding
and then adopt it from our current understanding of how sense perceptions occur.  I must
state that in adopting the current understanding of the process, the fundamental advaitic
understanding is not compromised. 

VP says one can think of limiting consciousness as three fold.  We understand first that
consciousness is unlimited, indivisible and eternal. Just as space which is infinite is
divided by limiting equipments and expressed as jar space, room space, etc. consciousness
expressed by the limiting adjuncts is called limiting consciousness. With that
understanding we can now look at the process of perception. 

>From the point of perception, there are three things that have to come together for
knowledge to take place.  One is an object; the other is the subject and third is the
means of knowledge, bridging the first two. We can say that no knowledge can takes place
until all the three come together. In this, object is not subject (in fact cannot become
a subject) and subject is not an object (cannot become one either) and means is
connecting link between these two dissimilar things. Since Vedanta says that the all
pervading consciousness, Brahman, is the material cause for everything, the distinctions
of subject, object and the means are only superficial and are valid within vyavahaara or
transactional reality. Since knowledge is related to consciousness, the perceptual
knowledge of an object by a subject through a means involves some kind of transgressing
the transactional to transcendental reality, since I, a conscious entity, become
conscious of an object, in my mind via reflected consciousness. Hence the statement ‘what
I perceive is nothing but consciousness itself which is nothing but Brahman’ follows. How
this happens can be described as follows:  

Since Brahman is the material cause for everything, we can say Brahman, in the form of a
limiting adjunct called object, comes in contact with limiting consciousness called
subject though a limiting consciousness called means of knowledge, for perceptual
knowledge to take place. It is exemplified by Gita sloka – brahmaarpaNam brahma haviH 
  Let us take an example of a perception of a jar.   We can say that consciousness in the
form of jar (jar is a name and a form for the substantive Brahman), comes in contact with
the consciousness in the form of mind, through consciousness in the form of means of
knowledge. When all three become ‘as though’ united into one when a conscious entity, I,
becomes conscious of the object, jar. 

How does this process occur?  To explain this process VP provides simple analogy that is
familiar to even a lay man - water from a tank that is being channeled to the various
farm-fields takes the shape of the fields – rectangular in rectangular fields and
circular in circular fields, etc., similarly the mind supported by consciousness goes out
through the sense organs and makes a contact with the object and envelopes the object,
jar, modifying itself taking the shape of the jar. At this juncture, the modified mind
and the object are occupying the same place at the same time.  That very modification is
called vRitti. Mind running to the object and taking the object shape for it to perceive
is conventional understanding how the mind through sense organs ‘grasps’ the object.  We
note that in the ‘Methods of Knowledge –According to Advaita Vedanta’, Swami
Satprakashananda says that only in the visual and auditory perceptions the mind goes out
through the corresponding senses while in tactile, gustatory, as well as in olfactory
experiences the sense organs, in association with the mind, makes contact with the object
while remaining in its own location. In principle, it appears that it is not necessary
that mind has to go out and engulf the object – information can come to the senses and
via senses to the mind – for object to be cognized as is. The important point is in the
perceptual knowledge; the vRitti that is formed is representative of the object
perceived. The correspondence is imperative for perceptual knowledge to be immediate and
direct, which is not the case for interferential knowledge.   

We now know that light reflected from the object reaches the lenses of the eye, providing
an image of the object on the retina. Since we are blessed with two eyes that separate by
seven degrees, the two images stereographically rotated to give a depth of vision. This
is exploited in making 3-D movies using polarized lights, which is viewed by wearing
polarized glasses.  If you remove the glasses you only see plane projection.  The three
dimensional view of the world is transmitted to the brain. Up to this is clear. Signal is
transformed as vRitti in the mind – this conversion software is intrinsic to the mind.
That this happens is obvious but how this happens is not known. The defects can occur due
to distortion of the eye, which to a large extent can be corrected by spectacles.  The
defect can also occur when in the transmittal of the image in the retina to the brain. 
Subsequent transmittal of this image to the mind in terms of neural reorganization
(compiler and programming code with which the mind operates) is not yet understood.  

Here the mind integrates the input from all the senses as they come forming the image or
vRitti.   Only difference from the conventional understanding is instead of mind rushing
through the sense organs, the information is brought to the subtle equipment, mind.
Either way the end product is the formation of the vRitti, which is representative of the
sense data that is collected. That is, the image formed is representative of the sense
data that is perceived. If the sense data is erroneous or distorted, the image that is
formed is not true representation of the object seen. This leads to error in perception.
The ultimate mechanism involves the formation of vRitti representative of the object
perceived or more correctly representative of the sense data received. 

Thus every vRitti has a corresponding object that it represents in perception.  On the
other hand, in the case of inference where the object is not perceived but inferred, the
vRitti has no direct representation to the sense data and thus to the object that is
perceived.   In the inference, senses data correspond to only the ‘hetu’ or cause part.
For example, for the case, ‘I see the smoke on a distant hill’ where the smoke and the
distant hill are perceived and the corresponding vRittis have objects associated with it.
But when we deduce using vyaapti (a concomitant relation between the cause and effect)
that the hill is on fire, where the fire is not perceived but inferred, the vRitti
associated with it has no direct object to relate to since there is no corresponding
sense data on fire.  Hence the knowledge that is arrived at – that the hill is on fire –
is not direct and immediate – it is indirect and mediate knowledge, since mind has to use
the sense data and analyze that information using relations and arrive at some
conclusion, which is considered as deductive knowledge.  Hence knowledge is mediate and
indirect.  This will be analyzed more clearly when we discuss the anumAna pramANa.  Here
the point VP makes is that the perception passed on sense data provides a direct
correspondence between the mental vRitti and the object of perception. In the
conventional explanation wherein the mind is rushing through the sense organs and
enveloping the object at the same place and time, insures one to one correspondence
between the vRitti and the object perceived.  That VP says insures that the limiting
consciousness of the object present corresponds to the limiting consciousness of the
vRitti formed in the mind. 

We can now state that one of the essential criteria for perceptual knowledge is the
correspondence between the object perceived and the associated vRitti that is formed via
sense input. In the internal perception of feelings this happens automatically since
metal moods formed correspond to those particular emotions – happy, unhappy, fear, etc.
Hence their perception is also direct and immediate.  This correspondence between the
object and its vRitti formed in the mind – this one to one correspondence -  is viewed by
VP as the unity in the limiting consciousness of the object and that of vRitti. To
appreciate this concept correctly let us looks at space analogy, which is analogous to
consciousness, as both are indivisible, all pervading and infinite.  Let us consider a
jar sitting on the ground in a monastery.  There is no difference in the space inside the
jar and space inside the monastery. Space is limitless although the limiting adjuncts
that define the limiting spaces ‘as though’ are different, but intrinsically they are the
same, one indivisible space. Even the dividers, jar or walls of monastery are in space

The same analogy applies in perception, although it is not obvious. That consciousness is
all pervading is not obvious to us. That knowledge comes from the scriptures, although
one can deduce logically that consciousness cannot have boundaries, space-wise or
time-wise.  It is inside and outside and thus everywhere.  In each object the
consciousness is expressed as limiting consciousness. Hence object is defined as Brahman
+ form with a name, since Brahman is the material cause for the universe. The
transformation of Brahman into forms, scriptures say, is like gold transforming into
ornaments – a transformationless transformation called vivarta vikaara, or an apparent
modification. Just as gold remains as gold while forming verities of ornaments with
different names and forms, without itself undergoing any vikaara or real modification,
Brahman, whose nature is pure consciousness, remains as such but appears to be limiting
objects, with a name and form or attributes. Therefore all objects are limiting
consciousnesses, limited by the upaadhiis which are bounded. Although upaadhiis are
bounded, Brahman is not, since the space between the upaadhiis is also Brahman. Hence
Brahman as limitless is not compromised.  

Unity of limiting consciousnesses for perception: 

>From the above analysis, the jar out side is nothing but limitless Brahman, whose nature
is existence-consciousness but appearing as limiting consciousness (actually as limiting
existence) in the form of a jar (form here stands for attributes of the jar, which are
different from those of mug or vessel) with the name associated with it as ‘jar’. Name
defines the attributes with generic attribute that jar has jar-ness or jar-hood
associated with it. Senses measure attributes, since substantive Brahman is not
attributive. Existence is not an attribute. (If existence is attribute then we need
another substantive for the attributive existence, that is, we need another Brahman whose
nature is existence – thus we run into infinite regress. In addition if existence is an
attribute and attribute should be different from substantive.  Only thing different from
existence is non-existence. Now we run into self-contradiction. The non-existence which
is different from existence becomes a substantive for the attributive existence. That is
existence is an attribute for non-existence. Non-existent substantive is no substantive. 
Hence, existence cannot be an attributes as some philosophers argue. Hence, advaita says
existence-consciousness is swaruupa or inherent nature of Brahman – here the language is
limited in expressing the swaruupa lakshaNa of Brahman, as the scriptures says words
cannot reach there!). When the sense-input forms a vRitti in the mind whose attributes
are the same as that of the jar, the one to one correspondence between the
existent-attributive vRitti and existent-attributive jar is established. This is stated
in VP as the limiting consciousness of the object jar is united with the limiting
consciousness of the vRitti, the mental mood for the completion of the perception.  

The truth of this becomes clear, since Brahman is all pervading and limitless. The only
difference between one object and the other is attributes that define the objects. In the
perception of ‘this is jar’ – the attributes of the jar are measured and carried to the
mind where VRitti is formed consisting of the same attributes that were measured. 
Brahman in the form of jar is now Brahman in the form of vRitti in the mind, since
everything is nothing but Brahman. The same statement is expressed as the limiting
consciousness of the Brahman in the form of jar is now united with the limiting
consciousness of Brahman in the form of vRitti – since attributives of both the object
outside and the vRitti inside are the same. The substantives for both jar outside and the
vRitti inside are also the same since Brahman is limitless and indivisible.

To be more exact, expression of Brahman is different in different limiting adjuncts.
Brahman expression depends on the nature of the adjuncts.  In the case of very gross
products or gross world, the inertness is obvious.  In all these, the all pervading
Brahman is expressed as just the existence – sat swaruupam. Hence we say jar IS where the
is-ness is the expression of its existence.  Hence the object jar outside is Brahman
expressed as existence with name jar and form – all the attributes - superimposed on that
existence. In the case of jar or any other tangible object, the existence exists in a
grosser form.  All gross forms consist of panca bhuutas transformed by recombination
process (pancIkaraNa) keeping Brahman as their substantive.  If the object is subtle as
in the case of the mind, Brahman can then express as existence and conscious entity,
since mind can reflect the light of consciousness much better than gross objects. It is
like a mirror that can reflect the light better than a stone. The degree of reflection
depends on the reflecting medium.  Perception of jar therefore involves perception of
Brahman in the limiting existence in the form of a jar with its attributes.  During the
process of perception, the attributes are gathered by senses and are projected in the
mind as vRitti. Although the attributes are the same in both the jar and in the vRitti,
mind is a subtler expression of Brahman in contrast to jar which is grosser expression.
Hence in the vRitti, Brahman is expressed not only as existence similar to that in the
jar but also as reflected consciousness since the vRitti which is nothing but mental mood
can reflect the light of consciousness better than the gross material of the jar.  Hence,
considering all this, we can state that perception is said to be complete, if existence
of the jar with its attributes unites with the existence of the vRitti with the same
attributes as sensed by senses. Since existence is all pervading, only thing that
requires to be carried by the senses are attributes of the object to the vRitti. It is
also a fact that the senses can carry only attributes and not substantive.  Hence
perception is complete as soon as attributes are projected on to Vritti or image or
mental mood that is formed in the mind. VRitti is illumined as it forms, since mind has
the capacity to reflect the illuminating consciousness. The limiting reflected
consciousness by the vRitti is the knowledge of the vRitti, which is the same as the
knowledge of the object. VRitti is nothing but existence with the attributes that are
gathered by the senses and those attributes are the same as the attributes of the jar,
which is also nothing but existence with the attributes. Thus there is an identity in the
two – object jar and the vRitti as both are existence with the attributes of the jar. 
Only difference is existence is expressed in the jar in grosser form while it is
expressed in subtle form in the vRitti. The other difference would depend on how far the
senses could gather the attributes from the jar and carry them to the vRitti.  In some
cases the senses can be trained to pick up finer differences in tastes, different shades
in colors or finer differences in forms which may not be possible for untrained senses. 
There are professional wine tasters and tea tasters who can distinguish finer differences
in tastes to know which is better or more easily sellable! 

In the case of internal perceptions that is the perception of happiness or unhappiness,
fear, anger etc, the metal moods are directly perceived since the mental moods are the
emotions directly.  As the emotions rise, they express as perturbations in the mind as
mental moods and they are illumined and cognized as they form.  Senses are not involved
here. Attributes of the mood are the specific feelings themselves and therefore further
means is not required for knowledge of those feelings. VP says since the limiting
consciousness in the form mental moods and the limiting consciousness in the form of
feelings of happiness, anger, fear, etc are identical or occupy the same space and time,
the reflected consciousness or the knowledge which is immediate and direct is invariably
a perception. 

Hence there are fundamentally two criteria that need to be met for perception to be
a) For the vRitti that is formed either via sense input for the objects outside or for
the vRitti that is formed for the internal perceptions of the emotions, there must be one
to one correspondence between the object of perception and the vRitti that is formed.
This insures that every vRitti that is formed there is an object that it corresponds to;
be the object of perception is outside or inside the mind.
b) The vRitti as it forms is illumined directly and immediately by the ever present
consciousness, sAkshI or the witnessing consciousness. Hence direct and immediate
knowledge of the object perceived is the nature of the perceptual knowledge. In complex
cases, as in the case of fire on the distant hill, the immediate perceptions are only the
smoke and the hill. From this, the knowledge that the hill is on fire is deduced using
logic using cause-effect relationships. This part of the deductive knowledge is not
immediate and direct.  Hence we have mixture of both direct and immediate knowledge of
smoke and hill, and mediate and indirect knowledge of fire on the hill. 

The limiting consciousness of the object, the limiting consciousness of the subject, and
the limiting consciousness of the means, all combining to form – pure consciousness but
expressed figuratively as the consciousness of the object or the knowledge of the object.

We can raise the question – how is it possible that the limiting reflected consciousness,
that is the knowledge of .. is the same as the pure absolute knowledge or original
consciousness?  Although the answer is obvious, it becomes a very pertinent question for
many advaitic students – since the same question trickles down as who really realizes
when I say I am not this, or I am not the ego, which is nothing but the reflected
limiting consciousness, since it is the ego that is making statement that I am not the
ego, and not the sAkshI chaitanyam. The reflected consciousness will remain as reflected
consciousness as long as there is medium for reflection.  It is like as long as there is
a mirror there is always the image in the mirror, if there is an object in its vicinity
and there is enough light around, whether I pay attention to the image or not. (The human
psychology is always to look at their images if there are any. Everybody wants to know
how one looks either in the mirror, in the others eyes).  The original consciousness
remains as pure, ever present, ever shining consciousness, whether there is a mirror to
reflect or not. Self Realization is then recognizing the reflected limiting consciousness
(ego) is not separate from the original consciousness.  These analogies of mirror and
reflection are only for purposes of illustration.  Actually if we say the original
consciousness is all pervading and mind is reflecting the consciousness – such statements
are for purpose of understanding. According Advaita Vedanta, mind, the reflected medium
as well as the reflection are not and cannot be separate from the all pervading
consciousness.  Hence in Advaita it is technically called adhyaasa or just a
superimposition, like ring is superimposed on gold. Gold is called adhiShTAnam or
substantive. Hence it is the all pervading consciousness itself ‘as though’ appears as
the mind as well the reflection in the mind, for the knowledge of an object that itself
appears as one. It is similar to entering bright sunlit room.  Now sun light is all over
but what I actually see is the sunlight reflected by the objects all around, and say I
see the sunlight everywhere.  What I am seeing is only the reflected sunlight everywhere
as it falls on the objects or walls around.  However, I recognize that the reflected
sunlight is not different from the original sunlight although I may not be able to see
that original sunlight directly. If there are no objects, no walls, or none to reflect
the sunlight, will my eyes able to recognize the presence of sunlight? If I am the
sunlight itself and there is nothing to reflect, how would that be?  Hence, it is said
that mind is essential for self-realization to recognize that I am not the reflected
light in the mind but the original one that lights the mind to reflect.  In fact I am the
mind too to mind.  It is said that in order to see myself I became many – this is also
referred to in many ways as Liilaa Vibhuuti or Aiswaryam or as GouDapAda puts it –
swAbhAvikam – that is my natural state. 

Hence VP’s declaration in the beginning itself:  ‘Pratyaksha pramaa ca atra caitanyam
eva’ meaning in the direct perceptual knowledge, what is really revealed as the knowledge
as reflected consciousness is the pure consciousness itself.  That is the identity of
reflected consciousness with the original consciousness. One is adhyaasa and the other is
adhiShTAnam, a superimposition on a substratum, like ring on Gold. It is like saying ring
is nothing but gold, which is its adhiShTAnam or substratum.  In the case of
consciousness, without that superimposition one cannot see the adhiShTAnam, like light
cannot be seen without its reflections. One can now see the beauty in the million dollar
statement as one reflects more and more on the truth behind all reflections. This
completes the analysis by establishing what was proposed in the beginning. The rest of
the analysis deals with some details and related things pertaining to direct perception
as pramANa. 

Now we address some of the objections and responses, a standard format commonly used to
clarify the concepts presented. 

Hari Om!

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