Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part IX - Internal perceptions

Here we need to discuss how an internal perception occurs. Under this topic, we are not concerned about the recollection from memory as internal perception. By ‘internal perception’, what we mean is the knowledge of mental moods – the feelings of being happy, unhappy, desire, anger, fear etc that arise in the mind. When I say I am happy, it is an experience, together with the knowledge that ‘I am happy’. When I say that I am happy, the statement is immediate and direct – one does not have to say: “let me think whether I am happy or not”, or “let me meditate on it to see if I am happy”; one does not have to look at some cause-effect relationship to deduce that I must be happy for such and such a reason.

‘I am happy’, ‘I am unhappy’, ‘I feel bad’, ‘I am afraid’ etc – these emotions are all mental moods which are immediately and directly illuminated by the witnessing consciousness. Hence the mental mood <happy mood of the mind> is illumined and the reflected limiting consciousness is cognized as ‘I am conscious of the happy mood of the mind’. 'I am happy' is not a recollection from memory, although I can be happy by recollecting some pleasurable experience that happened in the past. In that case however, the recollection of a past experience affects me (or not) in the present. (Many people say that they ‘live in the past’, particularly if they are sorrowful experiences, by continuously recollecting those experiences again and again like continuous re-runs on the TV – we call these ‘attachments’). The negative mental moods, such as anger, jealousy and sorrow, cause a significant drain of mental energies resulting in mental depressions and other neurotic problems. Sometimes, the root cause for these may be a desire or an extreme dependency on some particular outcome. If these desires are unsatisfied, it can result in frustration and anger. Mental depressions can occur when there is no control of the minds or control of the external situation. Krishna points out how a mind can spiral down from intense desire, through anger, to delusion causing loss of discriminative power etc.

All vRRitti-s that arise in the mind are immediately illuminated and the resulting reflected consciousness from these is known. That means we are conscious of them immediately as they arise in the mind. It also follows that there cannot be a vRRitti without it being seen immediately. What that means is that I cannot think or be happy, unhappy or angry without my knowing it! Therefore all vRRitti-s or mental moods are illumined and reflected immediately by the ever present witnessing consciousness.

A comment:
Here we can raise the question whether 'I am happy', ‘I am unhappy’, ‘I am angry’, etc are thoughts or mental moods separate from thoughts, although both are put under one category as mental moods or vRRitti-s. From experience, we find that these vRRitti-s are not of 'thought forms', but just simple mental moods.

[Aside: Recently I had an extensive discussion with Swami Paramarthanada-ji about three aspects which are pertinent here.

1) Concerning vRRitti: vRRitti is a mental mood, and thought is also a mental mood – hence translation of vRRitti as ‘thought’ is not inappropriate (note the double negative). We have ‘idam vRRitti’ (thoughts about this) and ‘aham vRRitti’ (the 'I am' thought). vRRitti is also a feeling which need not be expressed as thought or as a conceptualization of that feeling. Hence translation of vRRitti as thought is difficult here – it looks like it is as difficult as translating the feelings into thought forms! Hence, it is sometimes better to stick to translating vRRitti as ‘mental mood’ or as ‘feeling’, particularly when it comes to internal perceptions.

2) I asked him about my statement that “Existence of an object can be established only by the knowledge of existence. Otherwise, it is indeterminate.” Swami-ji said that this is correct, provided that I clarify that it is the ‘knowledge in the minds of some conscious entity’.

3) Regarding ‘biological time’: From the second point, it follows that the knowledge, which has to be in the mind of someone, includes Ishvara, as well as any other conscious entity. He agreed with my statement about vaishvAnara in the operation of biological clocks.

Anyway these are clarifications from Shree Swami-ji for those who are interested. In the present context, we are now dealing with feelings of happiness, anger etc. as mental moods. These need not be the same as thoughts involving conceptualizations, but one can consider them to be mental moods expressed as thoughts and not ‘after the fact’ thoughts. I would prefer to refer to them as ‘mental moods’ or feelings, rather than as ‘thoughts of the feelings’. ]

Hence, 'I am happy' as a thought is different from the mental mood of happiness. Thought is a conceptualized entity while the happy mood does not involve conceptualization of the state. Similarly, 'I am angry', 'I am frustrated' etc. These emotional moods are experienced directly and immediately. Hence, when I express my happy state of my mind with a thought or vRRitti as an 'I am happy' thought, I am actually no longer happy, since I am now busy cognizing the thought instead of simply being happy.

VP says that mental moods are known immediately as they rise in the mind. When we formulate those moods in terms of thoughts, we are now describing the moods instead of cognizing them. Hence, the 'I am happy' statement or thought is different from being in a happy mood. Cognition of the mood is different from the expression of the mood as thought and subsequent cognition of the thought. These latter expressions are after the fact. (This happens also when we cognize an object through perception. If there is jar in front of me, I see the jar and cognize it as 'Here is a jar'. That part is immediate. This cognition can be follow by, 'I know here is a jar', which is an after the fact or cognition of the ‘knowledge of cognition’).

Hence, when one tries to express feelings in terms of thoughts, one necessarily fails. Words and thoughts cannot express those feelings, although words (or sometimes facial or other bodily gestures) are needed in order to express those feelings to others. In fact, in the case of fear etc, the body also reacts to the feelings, in terms of adrenal reactions – high blood pressure, accelerated heart beat etc. Thus, we can also state that mental moods of anger, jealousy, frustration, etc. (i.e. negative moods) cause perturbations in the mind in response to the situations that are being faced. These mental perturbations will trickle down to perturbations at the body level in terms of physical and/or chemical reactions. On the other hand, the positive emotions are mental moods that make the mind calm and quiet with all mental perturbations having become quiet, at least momentarily. That results in apparent perception of happiness, which is associated with my intrinsic nature, since I am Ananda svarUpa or of the nature of pure bliss, which is non-dual. It appears from this that the positive mental moods are actually closer to absence of normal mental moods since, under these conditions, the witnessing consciousness beams forth in its true glory (which is felt as 'I am happy', etc.).

The expression of love is also similar, wherein duality ceases between the lover and the loved. The negative moods of hate, anger, etc take the mind away from myself and duality is exemplified. Fear arises from the second. Cognition of these mental moods of happiness, unhappiness, anger, fear, etc., do not need to be expressed via thoughts. Hence, internal cognition of the mental moods is direct and immediate cognition of the mental states. Similarly, the state of realization, that is the realization of my original nature – ‘I am’ as sat-chit-Ananda svarUpa – is called akhaNDa AkAra vRRitti, the unbroken formless form of mental mood. Here again, the vRRitti is not a thought form but similar to a mental mood, involving unbroken cognition of myself as the self that I am. It is not like other moods that come and go, but is the constant awareness of the ever-present, self-illuminating consciousness that I am. This intense feeling of self recognition is in the mind only. It is not recognition of the reflected consciousness (as in reflected light) but cognition of the original consciousness (as with the original light in the room or sunlight) which is ever present. This is unrelated to any reflections that may or may not occur. It is called akhaNDa AkAra vRRitti, since that recognition is in the mind only, like the room light or sunlight falling in the room. When that realization arises, there is no more feeling that I am the limited, reflected consciousness. Here, it is not that there are no more vRRitti-s that are getting reflected as limiting consciousness(es). These are cognized as such without having the notion that 'I am this'. I.e. the vRRitti-s ‘this’, ‘this’ and ‘this’ are getting reflected as they rise in the mind but there is no longer any identification with these vRRitti-s as ‘I am this’, since I have now realized that I am the background, ever-present witnessing consciousness and not the limited, reflected consciousness 'this'.

Once I have known who I am and abide in that knowledge of who I am, then I can still take the role of 'I am this' for transactional purposes, but with clear understanding of who I am. I.e. I am not the limited consciousness 'I am this' but the limitless consciousness, which was referred to earlier as sAkShi chaitanya or the witnessing consciousness in relation to sAkShyam, the witnessed limited consciousness. We can state that the difference between the state of realization and the state of ignorance is only this. We have, for all our cognitions, the sAkShi or the witnessing consciousness in whose light the mind and its moods are being illumined and the reflected, limited consciousnesses by which these illuminations are cognized. When I am ignorant (i.e. when I do not know my true identity), I take myself to be a constant, reflected, limited consciousness 'I am this' – where 'this' keeps changing as the reflected limited consciousness of the mental vRRitti changes with body, mind (including memory) and intellect thoughts. That identification of I am with 'this', (where ‘this’ is a reflected limited consciousness) is called EGO.

With changing 'this', my identification also shifts. In the state of realization, I recognize that I am that akhaNDa AkAra vRRitti – a continuous original consciousness that ‘I am’ and not the reflecting consciousness that I used to think that I am. 'I' is still called vRRitti but is now an unbroken vRRitti since my attention is shifted from specific reflections to the original general light of consciousness. The localized reflections and cognitions will continue as part of the metal moods but my identification is now shifted from the reflected limited consciousness to that which is continuous and ever-present – the ever-shining, original consciousness, which still illumines as before the moods that arise in the mind.

Nothing has changed except for the shifting of my attention of who I am. I used to think that I am reflected consciousness and now I realize that I am the original consciousness. Since the original consciousness is ever present, there is no confusion in terms of understanding who that 'I' stands for. It is like recognizing that I am the original light that is beaming all the time instead of the reflected light of that original light from the vRRitti-s or mental moods that still continue as before. The contents of the limiting vRRitti-s may also change now, since there are no more egocentric desires and their resulting thoughts. All vRRitti-s are now centered on the totality that I am.

Actually the language fails to express properly the correct understanding, as the scripture says the words ‘return back’. There is now knowledge in the sense that I now know who I am and no longer take myself to be what I am not. The vRRitti knowledge eliminates the ignorance of who I am. Shankara says that as a result of realization, kRRitvA j~nAnam svayam nasyet - having eliminated the ignorance, this is also eliminated. What it means is that Self-knowledge is not knowledge as a thought but knowledge as a fact. Once I shift from what I think I am to what I really am, the knowledge or self knowledge is of 'I am' period without any qualification. Bhagavan Ramana says “aham aham taya”, the thought ‘I am - I am’ etc spontaneously rising in one's mind. This is the pure knowledge that we discussed earlier - which is also expressed as akhaNDa AkAra vRRitti. Better to leave it at that, than try to explain any more with words!

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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