Part XXXVIII -
As was discussed earlier, when the perception of an object arises
through the formation of a vRRitti, there is immediate cognition
of the object as in ‘this is a pot’: the vRRitti
is reflected by the light of consciousness of the sAkshI, and
the reflected ‘light’ is knowledge. Along with it,
there is also knowledge of the cognition; i.e. that ‘I
know that this is a pot’ also arises immediately. For this
knowledge of the cognition, no further reflection is required
since knowledge reveals itself (it is ‘self-revealing’).
It is like saying that we do not need a light in order to see
a light, since light is self revealing. Similarly the reflected
illumination of the consciousness of the object-vRRitti becomes
a self-revealing cognition of the knowledge of that vRRitti.
Thus the two fold nature of the perceptual knowledge is understood:
it involves perception of the object (‘this is a pot’)
and perception of the cognition of the perception (‘I know
that this is a pot’).
Thus we have a two-fold nature to perception: perception
of the object and perception of the cognition of the
object. With regards to the first, the perception of
the object, we have discussed exhaustively the perceptuality
condition and how a vRRitti forms in the mind based
on attributive knowledge of the object as perceived
by the senses. With regards to the second, perceptuality
of the cognition, VP says it is just consciousness alone.
This is because, when I say ‘I know this is a pot’, ‘pot’ is
an object, which is inert, and ‘I’ am the
knowing principle, the chaitanya vastu. An inert entity
cannot know anything. Since I say ‘I am the knower
of the pot’, the ‘knower I’, or the ‘subject
I’ cannot be different from the conscious entity.
Hence, VP declares that the perceptuality of the cognition
is nothing but the pure consciousness that I am. When
I cognize an object, say pot, ‘I’ am the knower
and ‘this’ is known. The duality of subject-object
sets in with reference to the object known. When there
is no cognition of any object, I just remain as witnessing
consciousness, without any qualification. Objectless-awareness
is pure consciousness.
Question: Is the above statement true
for direct and immediate perception or true for other
means of knowledge such as inference? In the case of
direct perception, such as ‘this
is a pot’, the perception of the pot is immediate and direct.
The resulting knowledge ’I know this is a pot’ is
also cognized immediately. When there is indirect knowledge,
as in the case of the fire on the distant hill, is the cognition
that the distant hill is on fire immediate and due to the subject
consciousness ‘I am’?
Answer: Yes, it applies to indirect perceptions
too. When I say that the distant hill is on fire because I see
the smoke, the cognition of the fire is not immediate. Only the
cognition of the hill and the smoke are immediate. It is a logical
inference that the hill is on fire, since we know from past experience
that wherever there is smoke, there is a fire causing the smoke.
Hence, when I conclude that the distant hill is on fire, the
vRRitti that is formed has no attributive content of the fire.
Hence, it is indirect and mediate, not immediate. But when the
vRRitti that the hill is on fire is formed by inferential process,
the knowledge of the vRRitti is immediate as it forms, since
it gets illumined by the witnessing consciousness, sAkshI. Then
the cognition of that knowledge is also immediate since knowledge
is self-revealing. Whatever is self-revealing is pure consciousness.
Hence the above statements are applicable even for indirect knowledge.
Question: Then the definition of perceptuality
of the cognition is too broad, since it can be extended to illusory
knowledge also; for example in the case of cognition of silver
where there is actually only nacre.
Answer: It is not unduly broad, since it extends
even to the case of erroneous cognitions. When I see silver
erroneously, since it is nacre and not silver, cognition of
the silver is immediate since the attributes of the silver
alone are gathered by the senses and consequently a vRRitti
with the silver attributive content is formed in the mind.
The knowledge that it is silver is immediate. The cognition
of that knowledge, that ‘I
know it is silver’, is also immediate. Hence, the above
definition is not unduly broad and applies even for erroneous
We have defined the perception as pramANa if it is not negated
by subsequent transmigratory experience or transactional experience.
I.e. ‘it is silver’ is valid knowledge until it is
contradicted by the subsequent transaction involving picking
up the piece of silver and finding that is not silver but nacre.
The knowledge that it is nacre is gained by sense input of the
attributes of the nacre that are different from pure silver.
The knowledge that it is nacre negates the previous knowledge
that it is silver. In the perception of nacre, that it is nacre
and not silver is cognized along with the cognition of that perception – I
know that it is nacre and not silver. Thus, the definition
applies to illusory knowledge as well, since the illusory knowledge
(that it is silver) was valid knowledge based on the attributive
content cognized at that time. It was negated only by subsequent
In the final analysis, even the perceptual knowledge of the objects,
and thus the perception of a world, are negated when we move
from transmigratory experience to transcendental experience.
Within transmigratory experience, the relative validity of perceptual
knowledge of objects is assumed to be valid since there is no
transcendental experience to invalidate it. Thus vyAvahArika
satyam is satyam until pAramArthika satyam is recognized.
In the above example, VP brought the example of the error in
cognition when we perceive silver where there is nacre. The
reason that we are seeing silver and not nacre is that when
I see the shining object on the floor, there is only the attributive
knowledge of a ‘silvery-shining’ by the sense of
sight. Therefore,based on the limited attributes of the object,
the vRRitti that is formed contains only the limited attributes
perceived by the sense. The cognition and the recognition based
on the matching attributes of the silver are immediate, giving
rise to the knowledge that it is a piece of silver out there.
Only when I bend and pick up the piece, do I gather additional
attributes by the senses based on which I am able to negate
the silver (since the attributes are contradictory to silver
attributes), and realize that it is nacre, since the attributes
now match with those of nacre. It is intrinsic in the limitation
of the attributive knowledge of objects that errors are possible
even when I am seeing the object, since attributes that are
gathered by the senses may be incomplete, if not erroneous.
Finally, because I am getting carried away with the attributive
knowledge of the world and not substantive knowledge, I can
never gain the knowledge of absolute reality by a perceptual
process since the absolute has no attributive content – nirguNa
or guNAtIta. Hence, negatability of the world as mithyA or
erroneous perception cannot be accomplished by any pramANa
other than shabda pramANa or shAstra pramANa.
We will discuss more about erroneous perceptions through further
objections in the next post.
Proceed to the next