Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part XII - Internal Perceptions (cont.)

In the case of internal perceptions (i.e. perception of happiness or unhappiness, fear, anger etc.) the mental moods are directly perceived. As the emotions arise, they express as perturbations in the mind – as mental moods – and they are illumined and cognized as they form. Senses are not involved here. The attributes of the mood are the specific feelings themselves and therefore further means are not required for knowledge of those feelings. VP says that, since the limiting consciousness in the form of mental moods and the limiting consciousness in the form of feelings of happiness, anger, fear, etc are identical or occupy the same space and time, the reflected consciousness or the knowledge which is immediate and direct is invariably a perception.

Hence, there are fundamentally two criteria that need to be met for perception to be complete:

a) For the vRRitti that is formed either via sense input (for the objects outside) or via internal perceptions of the emotions, there must be one to one correspondence between the object of perception and the vRRitti that is formed. This insures that, for every vRRitti that is formed, there is an object to which it corresponds, whether the object of perception is outside or inside the mind.

b) The vRRitti as it forms is illumined directly and immediately by the ever present consciousness – sAkShi or the witnessing consciousness. Hence, direct and immediate knowledge of the object perceived is the nature of perceptual knowledge. In complex cases, as in the case of fire on the distant hill, the immediate perceptions are only the smoke and the hill. From this, the knowledge that the hill is on fire is deduced by logic, using cause-effect relationships. This deductive knowledge is not immediate and direct. Hence we have a mixture of direct and immediate knowledge of the smoke and the hill, and mediate and indirect knowledge of the fire on the hill.

The limiting consciousness of the object, the limiting consciousness of the subject, and the limiting consciousness of the means, all combine to form pure consciousness but this is expressed figuratively as the ‘consciousness of the object’ or the ‘knowledge of the object’.

We can ask the question: how is it possible that the limiting reflected consciousness (i.e. the ‘knowledge of’) is the same as the pure absolute knowledge or original consciousness? Although the answer is obvious, it becomes a very pertinent question for many advaitic students, since it is essentially the same question as ‘who really realizes when I say I am not this, or I am not the ego, which is nothing but the reflected limiting consciousness, since it is the ego that is making statement that I am not the ego, and not the sAkShi chaitanya. The reflected consciousness will remain as reflected consciousness as long as there is medium for reflection. It is like saying that, as long as there is a mirror, there will always be an image in the mirror providing that there is an object in its vicinity and there is sufficient light, whether I pay attention to the image or not. (Human psychology is always to look at one’s images if there is one. Everybody wants to know how he or she looks in the mirror, as if through another’s eyes). The original consciousness remains as pure, ever present, ever shining consciousness, whether there is a mirror to reflect or not. ’Self Realization’ is then recognizing that the reflected limiting consciousness (ego) is not separate from the original consciousness.

This analogy of mirror and reflection is only for the purpose of illustration. If we say that the original consciousness is all-pervading and mind is reflecting the consciousness, this statement is for the purpose of understanding. According to Advaita Vedanta, mind, the reflecteing medium as well as the reflection are not and cannot be separate from the all pervading consciousness. Hence in Advaita it is technically called adhyAsa or just a superimposition, like ring is superimposed on gold. Gold is called the adhiShThAna or substantive. Hence, the all pervading consciousness itself 'as though' appears as the mind as well as the reflection in the mind, for the knowledge of an object that itself appears as one.

It is similar to entering a bright sunlit room. What I actually see in the room is the reflected sunlight from all of the objects in the room and the walls. But I recognize that the reflected sunlight is not different from the original sunlight, even though I may not be able to see that original sunlight directly. If there are no objects, no walls, or anything else to reflect the sunlight, will my eyes still be able to recognize the presence of sunlight? If I am the sunlight itself and there is nothing to reflect, how would that be? Hence, it is said that mind is essential for self-realization; to recognize that I am not the reflected light in the mind but the original source that provides the light for the mind to reflect. In fact, I am the mind too. It is said that, in order to see myself I became many. This is referred to in many ways, for example as lIlA vibhUti or aishvarya or, as gauDapAda puts it, svAbhAvika – that is my natural state.

Hence, VP's declaration in the beginning: 'pratyakSha pramA ca atra chaitanyam eva' meaning ‘in direct perceptual knowledge, what is really revealed as the knowledge as reflected consciousness is the pure consciousness itself’. That is the identity of reflected consciousness with the original consciousness. One is adhyAsa and the other is adhiShThAna, a superimposition on a substratum, like ring on Gold. It is like saying that the ring is nothing but gold, which is its adhiShThAna or substratum. In the case of consciousness, without that superimposition one cannot see the adhiShThAna, just as light cannot be seen without its reflections. One can now see the beauty in the million dollar statement as one reflects more and more on the truth behind all reflections. This completes the analysis by establishing what was proposed in the beginning. The rest of the analysis deals with some details and related things pertaining to direct perception as pramANa.

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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