Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Critical analysis of vedAnta paribhAShA Part XXXXVIII
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXXXVIII - Perception in Dream

When we perceive something to be other than what it is (such as a snake instead of a rope), we make an error. This is called adhyAsa – an error of superimposition. Thus, the perception of silver instead of nacre is due to adhyAsa. I am projecting silver on an object in which there is no silver. The projection is done by my mind.

In general, error arises due to ignorance or nescience of the nature of the object that is being perceived. Since I do not know that it is nacre, I take it as silver, based upon the partial or dominant sense input of silveriness of the object. That I do not know that it is nacre is due to what is called an ‘adventitious defect’, i.e. it is due to defects in the auxiliary causes that are involved in the operation of perception, e.g. insufficient light, etc. Because of these defects, the senses are unable to gather all the attributive knowledge of the nacre that would have revealed the true nature of the object. Instead, I am gathering only the predominant attribute of silveriness, which is also the characteristic of silvery objects. Thus there is some similarity in the attributive content of the actual object and the object projected. This similarity is called ‘sAdRRishya’.

Hence, the criterion for seeing something other than what it is comes from the auxiliary or adventitious factors that are involved in perception. Here VP gives an example of a dream projection of objects, in which one sees, say, a chariot, which is not really there but projected by the mind and hence illusory. The adventitious cause of this projection is ‘sleep’. This discussion leads naturally to the analysis of objects perceived in dream.

Objection: In the dream, one does not perceive any objects, but only recollects them from memory. Objects such as a chariot etc are those that were seen before and there is a memory associated with the previous perception. The recollection is only in the form of words or associated with words. One need not assume that one is creating a chariot in the dream since the dream is in the mind of the dreamer. Besides, the chariot is too big to fit in the mind of the dreamer; it is too cumbersome. Hence, there is no question of creation of objects such as a chariot in the dream; it is only a recollection from memory.

Reply: Not so. If the chariot is only a recollection, then I would not make the statement that ‘I see a chariot’ or ‘I saw a chariot in my dream’. In addition, it would violate the scriptural statements that establish the creation of the objects such as chariot in a dream. [na tatra rathA na rathayogA na panthAnO bhavanti, atha rathAn rathayogAn pathassRijate .. Br. Up. IV-3-10.] Initially (in the dream state), there are neither chariots, nor the horses to pull those chariots nor the roads for them to traverse. Therefore the chariots, horses and roads are created (in the dream). Therefore, like the silver appearing in the nacre, the chariot etc. that are experienced in a dream are also a projection of the mind. They remain as real for the perceiver as long as the dream lasts or the projection lasts. Generally, these projections are negated by the subsequent knowledge arising from further perception. In the case of dream objects, the objects may exist as long as the dream lasts. In the case of the silver projected on the nacre, it would last until a subsequent experience involving further attributive knowledge of that object establishes that the object is nacre and not real silver.

Objection: If a real chariot is seen in the dream, there should be eyes to see it and the chariot should also be spatially located for the seeing eyes to see. Since there is no ‘space’ inside the mind that could accommodate a whole chariot, one has to assume some imaginary space in which the chariot in the dream can be located. Where is the substratum to support the chariot spatially, and also object-wise? Essentially, what is the substantive of the chariot for its existence and for its perception, even if one argues that the chariot is a superimposition, similar to silver being superimposed on nacre?

Reply: The objection is not valid. The infinite consciousness which is self-effulgent is the substratum of the chariot, etc. Because the chariot is experienced in the dream, it is not unreal like the son of a barren woman. Since the chariot and other objects are experienced as existent in the dream, the consciousness manifesting as existence forms a substratum for all. The space where they are located is also part of that experience and hence is a superimposition on the consciousness because of which one is conscious of the space. Because one sees the chariot in the dream, the eyes that see the chariot are also of the same order of reality as the objects that are seen. All are projected as existent ‘this’ and existent ‘that’ on the substantive consciousness.

Since the experience is in the subtle form as ‘this’, the knowledge of the experience will also be in the form ‘this is a chariot’ and not ‘I am a chariot’, even though the limiting consciousness of the jIva forms the substantive for all, as was discussed before. Some are of the opinion that dream chariots and other objects seen in the dream are transformation of mAyA preserving the same order of reality as the cause, while others are of the opinion that they are transformation (pariNAma) through the medium of mind. The mANDUkya kArikA-s present the analysis more precisely and we will examine this later.

Objection: According to the above interpretation, chariots and other objects are superimposed on pure consciousness in order for one to be conscious of them. Since this substantive, pure limiting existence-consciousness, sAkshI, is not recognized in the dream (tat sAkshAtkAra abhAvena), the objects projected in the dream will also remain in the waking state. The dream state may be gone but, according to your theory, the objects are not imagined in the dream but are projected as real for the dreamer with the same substantive, namely the limiting consciousness-existence. The substantive does not change from dream to waking. Hence, in principle, there is no difference between the objects projected in the waking state with substantive limiting witnessing consciousness and the objects projected in the dream state. The state may change but the objects should remain, since the substantive remains the same. Therefore one should see all the objects, which were created in the dream, in the waking state also. The millions of dollars that we won in the dream-lottery can now be cashed in at the bank in the waking state,if your theory is valid.

Reply: In response to the objection, VP discusses two possible types of destruction. The first involves destruction of the perceived object along with its the material cause and the second is destruction of the perceived object without destruction of the material cause. The first is called ‘nullification’, in which the material cause is removed or completely eliminated (bAdha), and the second is called ‘cessation’ or ‘ending’, in which the material cause is not nullified.

The nullification of the material cause occurs only when the substantive is realized or recognized. The reality of the superimposed object arose only because of the non-recognition of the substantive due to nescience. Since the substantive for the whole world is pure consciousness, there is no other material for the objective world other than mAyA or nescience. Hence, upon gaining knowledge of the substantive which is pure consciousness, the material cause which is mAyA gets nullified. This is the first type of destruction, involving the knowledge of the substantive. If I realize that a pot is clay, then I recognize that there is no material pot other than its name and form. The gaining of knowledge of the substantive eliminated any reality attributed to the object pot other than the name and form of its substantive clay. It becomes ‘potty-clay’ instead of ‘clay pot’. There is no substantive pot other than the clay.

There is a second type of perception due to adventitious defects. If one is color blind then, because of the eye-defect, one sees objects with colors which are not there. If this defect is corrected, that correction does not eliminate the object but only eliminates the wrong color assigned to the object. Similarly, when we have double vision of objects due to defective eyes, correction of the eye-sight eliminates the vision of duality but not the object that was perceived. Hence, VP says that the substantive limiting consciousness-existence, sAkshI, is not realized as being the substantive for the objects of the dream, and therefore the objects may not be nullified because of that reason upon awakening from the dream. There is, however, no reason why they cannot be destroyed by the elimination of the adventitious defects that produced them in the first place, just as double vision of objects is destroyed by correction of eye-sight. Just as a jar can be eliminated by beating it with a club, even though we have not realized the substantive clay, what is there to prevent cessation of the object projected in the dream by the elimination of the adventitious defect that caused the dream projection, namely sleep?

We will continue further discussion on this topic in the next post.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section (Perception):
01. Introduction Part 1. 28. Perception at the Individual Level.
02. Introduction Part 2. 29. Perception at the Cosmic Level.
03. Analysis of Time and Space. 30. Summary so far.
04. Knowledge is Continuous. 31. vAchArambhanaNaM.
05. Whatever you perceive is Brahman! 32. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.1.
06. Attributes and Substantive. 33. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.2.
07. Mechanics of Perception. 34. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.3.
08. Some Objections. 35. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.4.
09. Internal Perceptions. 36. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.5.
10. The Criteria for Cognition. 37. Nature of ‘ego’ and Self-realization.
11. Unity of limiting consciousness for perception. 38. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 1.
12. Internal Perceptions (cont.) 39. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 2.
13. Some Clarifications Regarding Internal Perception. 40. Analysis of Error - Part 1: khyAti vAda-s.
14. Some Clarifications Regarding Character. 41. Analysis of error - Part 2: vedAnta paribhAshA analysis.
15. Question related to jAti [species]. 42. Analysis of error - Part 3: naiyAyika objection.
16. Relation between an attribute and its substantive. 43. Creation as Transformation.
17. brahman is the changeless substantive. 44. Questions on ‘Creation as Transformation’.
18. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 1). 45. Ontological Status of 'This'.
19. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 2). 46. Two Layers of Ignorance.
20. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 1). 47. Conclusion of silver-nacre analysis.
21. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 2). 48. Perception in Dream.
22. Mind as Subject. 49. Negating false perception.
23. Self-realization. 50. Counterpositive.
24. Application to Illusions. 51. Summary of Mechanism of Perceptual Knowledge.
25. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 1). 52. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 1.
26. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 2). 53. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 2.
27. The position of vishiShTAdvaita.  
The next section in this series continues with the pramANa of anumAna (inference).

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