[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge - 28

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 29 05:54:15 CDT 2008

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

                       Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge – 28

In the last discussion, it was shown that using inference we can arrive at knowledge that the universe is mithyaa, that is, it is not absolutely real or absolutely unreal.  Two vyaaptis or concomitant relations have been used to arrive at this conclusion. 1. The first vyaapti is: Objects in the universe are mithyaa if they are counter positive to absolute non-existence (that is they are not non-existent in the absolute sense but non-existent at the locus they are observed) and abide in their substantive (which is different from them), as in silver in nacre or snake where rope is. 2. The second vyaapti is: All objects in the universe are made of parts that form substantives for the object, as cloth made up of threads.  Taking the first vyaapti which is based on an error in perception- we are seeing an object whose substantive we do not perceive or know, just as silver where nacre is or snake where the rope is.  Silver in nacre or snake, where rope is, are
 mithyaa or unreal. They are not absolutely unreal since they are experienced. They are not real also since they get sublated, when their substantives become known. Therefore they are never present at the locus they are seen.  Hence they are called mithyaa, nether real nor unreal - sat asat vilakshaNam. Similarly, the universe is mithyaa, since it is being seen on a substantive that is different from it, namely Brahman whose nature is pure existence-consciousness-limitless. It is not unreal since it is experienced. It is not real since it gets sublated when the substantive of the universe is known. 

In the case of second vyaapti, the relation is ‘whatever that has parts is mithyaa’, since it can be dissembled into parts, which form its substantive.  The parts themselves can be parted as they are in turn are made of finer parts. Parts that are different from the object constitute its substantive. Taking the example of cloth, it is not really real, and since it is made up of threads which form its substantive. Threads, in turn, are not really real, since they are made of molecules, which in turn are not really real since they are made up some other finer particles, etc. Hence Universe constituting of parts is counter positive to absolute non-existence as it exists as assemblage of entities. That is, universe is not non-existent and at the same time does not have absolute existence, since it is made of parts. On the other hand, Brahman which is substantive for the entire universe is real, since it is not made up of parts. Hence it cannot be
 dissembled into finer units. Thus inference, using the worldly examples to establish the error in perception through vyaapti, can be extended to the perception of the universe, taking scriptural statement that attribute-less Brahman is one without a second. 

Objection: If objects are not real then it would contradict perception.  No one perceives non-existent jar, etc. The knowledge by perceptual process involves as in – ‘jar is’ - that is, jar is existent. Therefore jar has to be real for it to be perceived. No one perceives unreal jar. 

Response: True, when we say ‘jar is’, the existence of jar is implied. However jar to be existent; it borrows the existence from Brahman which is its substantive. If we say cloth is, that is, cloth is existent but the existence of cloth is borrowed and it comes from the existence of its substantive, threads. If there are no threads, then cloth cannot exist. When I perceive the jar, the existence of substratum of the jar, viz., Brahman is the ‘object’ of perception, since jar is name for a form.  It is similar to perception of cloth is due to the perception of the threads and their assemblage in a particular form. Hence existence of the cloth is due to the existence of its substantive, threads.  Cloth is just a name for a form of assemblage of the threads. This is true in a relative sense. However in the absolute sense, Brahman alone is the substantive for the entire universe of objects and every object is or exists, if we say, the existence of
 every object comes from Brahman, which is of the nature of existence itself.  It is similar to the statement that the existence of cloth comes from the existence of threads.  What is real in the perception of Jar, etc., is its substantive, which is of the nature of Brahman. The reality of jar, on its own, otherwise, is unfounded. 

Objection: When I perceive a jar, etc., how can one say I perceive Brahman, and existence of the jar is due to existence of Brahman, since Brahman cannot be perceived by the senses? The arguments imply that when one says jar exists, it amounts to saying jar’s existence comes from existence Brahman. It will be similar to saying ‘color’ comes from ‘color’ or color has color for it be a colorful.’ This is against Nyaaya theory as they do not admit a quality to be its own substantive, i.e. quality cannot be made of a quality. Jar’s existence cannot be made of existence for jar for it to exist. 

In addition, Brahman has no qualities, but qualities are the ones that are perceived by the senses.  Senses cannot perceive that which has no qualities.  If I say, ‘jar is’ and argue that I am perceiving the existence of the jar due to the existence of its substantive Brahman, it amounts to saying my senses are perceiving quality-less Brahman which seems to be saying senses are perceiving a sense-less object.  

Furthermore, in our view, ‘Brahman is the substance for the universe of objects’ is unfounded. Advaitins, however, admit that a substance is a locus for qualities, and the qualities inherent with the locus, i.e. inseparable from their locus. Then, Brahman, which is devoid of qualities, cannot be the substratum of qualities.  It cannot be locus for inherence (samavaaya) either since samavaaya comes only to relate the quality to its substantive.  (It was discussed earlier that according to Nyaaya, quality and the substantive are different and are related through what is known as samavaaya. There is no need of samavaaya when there are no qualities to relate to.). If Brahman is the cause, the objects become quality-less and therefore they are not sensible, since senses can only sense the qualities of the objects. 

Thus NaiyAyikas put forth several objections to dismiss the arguments of Advaitins that Brahman, which is devoid of qualities, is the substratum for the universe.  Since whatever the qualities of the substratum should persists in the products, the Universe of objects cannot be perceived since substratum, Brahman cannot be perceived by the senses. Even if one admits that Brahman, like time, as quality-less, can be perceived, then we have a situation that object is perceived along with the perception of Brahman similar to object perception along with the perception of time.  We have then a case of perception involving perception of object plus the perception of Brahman even though Brahman is quality-less like time. (The perception of time comes from miimaamsakas view. According to their view, when I say, ‘the object is’, the perception of ‘the object is’ involves perception of time ‘now’.  We have dismissed these arguments in the beginning
 itself – as there is no time in ‘now’. To define time we need ‘now’ and ‘then’, since time is the gap between two sequential events or more precisely two sequential experiences. ‘Now’ is only a single event. To define time we need ‘now’ and ‘then’ from memory. Perception is through the mind and Psychological time is different from biological time, as has been noted earlier.) Here the arguments of NaiyAyikas are that even if one admits the perception of Brahman is like perception of time which is not a quality measured by senses, we have a duality – the perception of object plus the perception of quality-less Brahman. We have a jar that exists and Brahman which is of the nature of existence; although it cannot be sensed since Brahman is quality-less. 

Response: The above objections stem from not appreciating the relative vs. absolute. Hence VP clarifies the Advaitic position related to relative vs. absolute in order to remove confusion arising from quality-less Brahman as substantive for the qualified universe of objects. 

There are three levels of existence: absolute (paaramaarthika), conventional (vyAvahArika) and subjective (prAtibhAsika). (I am translating the prAtibhAsika as subjective instead of illusory). Absolute existence is Brahman. Conventional existence is at the level of transactions, similar to the existence of space, etc. The subjective existence is similar to perceptual existence of silver where there is nacre, etc.  Hence VP says, ‘Jar is existent’ is a valid knowledge as it is expressed in the conventional or transactional existence.  Negation of this knowledge that there is really no pot there since there is nothing other than Brahman, that negation is not at transactional level but at absolute level. One can have knowledge at the absolute level that ‘only Brahman is and there is really no pot there’, while still transacting with the pot at the relative or conventional level. In addition, from this view point, in the definition of mithyaa the
 absolute non-existence has to be understood with proper qualification to give the correct meaning. Its non-existence is from the point of absolute existence, that is, it is from the point of paaramaarthika satyam. Hence negation of the object ‘as there is no jar’ is not at the conventional level but at the absolute level. It is similar to saying that there is no pot, it is only clay.  Clay, being the substantive for the pot, is of higher degree of reality compared to pot. Hence when we say ‘there is no pot there’; while transacting with the pot, and ‘what I see is only clay in a pot-form’, the negation is understood as the negation is done from the point of substantive and not from the point of relative. Similarly there is no universe other than Brahman; negation is from the point of absolute and not from the point of relative. However, as long as I do not have the knowledge of the substantive, the relative is taken to be absolutely real,
 just as silver is real or snake is real at the transactional level, when the substantives nacre or rope is not seen.  The knowledge of the snake or silver is invalided only when we have knowledge of the substantive. Similarly the knowledge of the universe as real subsists until the substantive Brahman is known. The knowledge of Brahman is non-sublatable since it is absolutely real or paaramaarthika satyam. I can have the knowledge of the paaramaarthika satyam while still transacting in the world of plurality.  It is like knowing pot is nothing but its substantive, clay, while still transacting with the pot. Thus each level of understanding should be clear. The confusion arises only when we mix the paaramaarthika satyam with vyaavahaarika satyam. 

This completes the section on anumaana pramaaNa or knowledge through inference. We will next take up the upamaana pramaaNa. 

Hari Om!

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