[Advaita-l] Debunking Drishti-Srishti Vada and Eka Jiva Vada - part 1

Aditya Kumar kumaraditya22 at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 15 11:59:11 EDT 2017

Namaste Venkatraghavanji, (and Praveenji),
In your essay, you write :-"On the face of it, this is clinching evidence of ShankarAchArya's view that external objects must be real,..."
and again you write :-
"Presumably, the train of logic is as follows: If external objects were real, it would mean that they existed independantly of the seer, and consequently they existed independantly of (and importantly, in the absence of) the seer's perception."
I am surprised that you say that Advaitins vouch for reality of the world. The key difference here is the approach towards establishing the unreality of the world. Buddhism develops a thesis based on logic and inference. However, Vedanta establishes the unreality of the world due to Advaita Brahman! Thus, the world may retain it's objective nature and yet in paramarthika state, the world ceases. Allow me reiterate what Shankara says in BSB 2-2-29 : " It may be said that even the Vedantins acknowledge the unreality of the external world, since it is contradicted by the knowledge of Brahman, and this view is based on shruti. But the bauddhas do not accept the authority of the vedas( and hence their view/approach is flawed)"
Hence, your presumption that Shankara tries to establish reality of objects in BSB 2-2-28 is wrong! He is trying to establish the untenebility of subjective-idealism, but says world is unreal from paramarthika view only. 
This is advocated by all later Advaitins. All later Advaitins have refuted the view of perception=creation or Jiva creates the world when perception takes place. They have all attributed the creation to Ishwara. Ishwara here does not create world like a potter creating pots, but Ishwara is creator as in, everything is dependent on Ishwara for it's sustenance. I am writing this below in detail :-
Subjective nature of objects in DSV
The thesis of DSV is as follows : The objects do not exist independant of the ideas. In other words, objects are merely awareness of objects and awareness of objects is not different from awareness. For instance, blue is not different from the idea of blue. The diversity is not due to objects but due to vasanas. 
Shankara in refuting the above position says that such a view is untenable because it contradicts our experience, which always distinguishes the subject and the object from the awareness. We are directly aware of our sense-contact with external objects which we perceive, and the object of awareness and the awareness are not one and the same. Our awareness itself shows that it is different from its object. The awareness of a pillar is not the same as a pillar, but a pillar is only an object of the awareness of a pillar. Even in denying external objects, the idealists have to say that what is knowable only within appears as if it was existing outside. 
Sankara argues thus: if externality is absolutely non-existent, how can any sense-cognition appear as external? Visnumitra cannot appear as the son of a barren woman. Again, the fact that an idea has the same form as its object does not imply that there are no objects; on the other hand, if there were no objects, how could any idea have the same form as its corresponding object? Again, the maxim that any two things which are taken simultaneously are identical is false; for, if the object and its awareness are comprehended at the same moment, the very fact that one is taken along with the other shows that they cannot be identical. Moreover, we find that in all our awarenesses of blue or yellow, a jug or a wall, it is the qualifying or predicative factors of objects of knowledge that differ; awareness as such remains just the same. The objects of knowledge are like so many extraneous qualities attributed to knowledge, just as whiteness or blackness may be attributed to a cow; so whether one perceives blue or red or yellow, that signifies that the difference of perception involves a difference in objects and not in the awareness itself. So the awareness, being one, is naturally different from the objects, which are many ; and, since the objects are many, they are different from the one, the awareness. The awareness is one and it is different from the objects, which are many. 
Moreover, the argument that the appearance of world objects may be explained on the analogy of dreams is also invalid; for there is a great difference between our knowledge of dreams and of worldly objects dreams are contradicted by the waking experience, but the waking experiences are never found contradicted.
Vachaspati's stand
Vacaspati in his Bhamati commentary distinguishes the position of Shankara from that of idealism by saying that the Vedanta holds that the  "blue" is not an idea of the form of blue, but "the blue"is merely the inexplicable and indefinable object. (he is stressing on Maya again).
Vivarana's stand
Prakasatman in his Panca-padikd-vivarana raises this point and says that the great difference between the idealists and the Vedantins consists in the fact that the former hold that the objects (visaya) have neither any separate existence nor any independent purpose or action to fulfil as distinguished from the momentary ideas, while the latter hold that, though the objects are in essence identical with the one pure consciousness, yet they can fulfil independent purposes or functions and have separate, abiding and uncontradicted existences (tattva-darsinas tu advitiydt samvedandt abhede pi visayasya bhedendpi arthakriyd- sdmarthya-sattvam sthdyitvam cdbddhitam astlti vadanti.)
Both Padmapada and Prakasatman argue that, since the awareness remains the same while there is a constant variation of its objects, and therefore that which remains constant (anuvrtta) and that which changes (vydvrttd) cannot be considered identical, the object cannot be regarded as being only a modification of the idea
Verdict of Shankarites
>From all these discussions one thing that comes out clearly is that according to the Sankara Vedanta, the sense-data and the objects have an existence independent of their being perceived; and there is also the mind called antahkarana, which operates in its own way for the apprehension of this or that object. Are objects already there and presented to the pure consciousness through the mind? But what then are the objects? and the Sankarite s answer is that they in themselves are unspeakable and indescribable.
The perception=creation concept in DSV
As per DSV the objects are transformations of a thought-principle and are as such objective to the subject which apprehends them. Both the subject and the object are grounded in the higher and superior principle, the principle of thought(DSV has to end in mind). This grounding implies that this principle of thought and its transformations are responsible for both the subject and the object, as regards material and also as regards form.
Shankara's response to the above view vis-a-vis Vedantic position
According to the Sankara Vedanta, however, the stuff of world objects, mind, the senses and all their activities, functionings and the like are but modifications of maya, which is indescribable (anirvdcya) in itself, but which is always related to pure consciousness as its underlying principle, and which in its forms as material objects hides from the view and is made self-conscious by the illuminating flash of the underlying principle of pure consciousness in its forms as intellectual states or ideas.
The idealism of the Sahkara Vedanta does not believe in the sahopalambha-niyama of the Buddhist idealists, that to exist is to be perceived. The world is there even if it be not perceived by the individual ;it has an objective existence quite independent of my ideas and sensations; but, though independent of my sensations or ideas, it is not independent of consciousness, with which it is associated and on which it is dependent. This consciousness is not ordinary psychological thought, but it is the principle that underlies all conscious thought. This pure thought is independent and selfrevealing, because in all conscious thought the consciousness shines by itself; all else is manifested by this consciousness and when considered apart from it, is inconceivable and unmeaning. This independent and uncontradicted self-shiningness constitutes being (abadhita-svayam-prakasataiva asyasatta). All being is pure consciousness, and all appearance hangs on it as something which is expressed by a reference to it and apart from which it has no conceivable status or meaning. This is so not only epistemologically or logically, but also ontologically. The objectforms of the world are there as transformations of the indescribable stuff of maya, which is not "being"; but dependent on "being"; but they can only be expressed when they are reflected in mental states and presented as ideas. Analogies of world objects with dream objects or illusions can therefore be taken only as popular examples to make the conception of mayd popularly intelligible and this gives the Vedantic idealism its unique position.

I haven't addressed the rest of your email as this email became too long. I shall respond after.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list