Part XXXX -
khyAti vAda-s (Analysis of error, Part 1 - by different philosophical
[khyAti means opinion, view, idea, assertion; vAda
means proposition, discourse, argument, discussion,
explanation or exposition (of scriptures etc.)]
The various theories about errors in perception from the point
of view of different doctrines are called khyAti vAda-s.
I will only provide a brief description for continuity. An excellent
discussion of this topic is also provided in the book ‘Methods
of Knowledge’ by Swami Satprakashananda. The following
discussions are from the advaitic stand point. Analysis of error
is fundamental to vedAnta and therefore has been addressed by
all AchArya-s, each criticizing the other philosophical positions
and establishing their own view point. The principal example
which they use for analysis is that of perception of silver in
the nacre of a shell. They address the question of how this error
in perception occurs. The following are the prominent theories
of error analysis:
1. Atma khyAti
2. asat khyAti
4. anyathA khyAti
5. sadasat khyAti
6. sat khyAti
7. anirvachanIya khyAti
1. Atma khyAti or Subjective Cognition - This is an idealistic
theory that negates external objects, since perception involves
a mental vRRitti as an internal subjective thought. Falsity
is involved in the externalization of internal thoughts. Thus,
the inner cognition is apprehended as an external object. This
yogachAra (branch of Buddhism) theory is rejected on the basis
that falsity cannot be separated from the truth, since in both
cases the internal thoughts are projected as external objects,
whether it is silver or nacre.
2. asat khyAti - This involves perception of non-existent
entities. According to this theory, in the case of perception
of silver for nacre, not only has the silver no existence
in the place where it is seen, the nacre has no existence
either. Thus, both are dismissed as false (although
one may be more false than the other!). Non-existence
or shunya [emptiness, void] forms the basis for all
apparent perceptions as per the shunya vAda of mAdhyamika
Buddhism. All Vedantic masters reject this mAdhyamika
philosophy as baseless.
3. akhyAti – According to this theory of the
prabhAkara school of mImAMsA, the error lies not in
perception but in the lack of appropriate discrimination
at the memory level. Thus, in the case of perception
of silver for nacre, there is a lack of proper discrimination
between the perceived input and the memory of silver.
Thus neither of them is unreal, but the falsity arises
in relating the remembered silver with the current nacre.
Advaita dismisses this theory on the grounds that the
silver is perceived here and now, not as a memory. That ‘this
is silver’ is the nature of the perception.
4. anyathA khyAti – According to this nyAya theory,
the silver and nacre are both real and the perception
of the brightness of the nacre is interpreted as the
silver that was actually perceived at some other place
and time. This is said to occur through some supernormal
connection in knowledge (alaukika sannikarSha) – the
mind is somehow connected to the object via the memory.
Falsity consists in relating silver with nacre where
it does not exist, but neither of the two is ‘unreal’.
Advaita dismisses these arguments on the grounds that
perception of silver is taking place now and should
be based upon the current sense input through the organ
of vision. Without acknowledging the perception of silver
in some form in the object in front, the knowledge that ‘this
is silver’ cannot be occurring.
5. sadasat khyAti – this theory of sAMkhya is
based upon ‘united’ perception of a real
(sat) and unreal (asat) object. The silver, which is
real in the silversmith’s shop, is perceived here
as an unreal superimposition on the nacre. Hence, there
is the cognition of real silver as unreal in the nacre.
Thus, it is a conjoint perception of real and unreal
objects as ‘this is silver’ where the nacre
is. This is dismissed by advaita on the grounds that
something that is non-existent cannot be perceived in
front of one, just because it is existent somewhere
in a silversmith's shop. The object perceived must be
present in front in order for its perception to take
place, since perception is immediate and direct.
6. sat khyAti – this is the theory of vishiShTAdvaita
(Ramanuja) and argues that there must be real silver
present in the nacre for one to see. Since all objects
are fundamentally made of the same five elements, everything
is present in everything else. Hence, perception of
silver in the nacre is due to the presence of real silver
there. This theory is dismissed, since it allows perception
of anything in every object perceived, since everything
is there in everything else. The discrimination of one
object from another would be impossible.
7. anirvachanIya khyAti – This is the advaita
theory of error. That ‘this is silver’ is
an immediate and direct perception. Non-existent silver
could not provide this. The silver is perceived as ‘here
and now’. This knowledge comes from direct sense
input in the observation of the ‘silveryness’ of
the object perceived. This knowledge is not sublated
until the perceiver goes out to pick up the supposed
silver that he sees. I.e. the substantiality of the
silver is negated when one tries to pick it up and observe
it closely. The perception of silver is recognized as
false only when he picks-up the object and discovers
that it is nacre. Did the silver exist before? Yes,
from the point of view of the perceiver. Hence, the
silver is not unreal, as its existence was experienced
during perception – after all, no one would knowingly
go after false silver. Hence, in the perceivers mind,
the silver is not unreal and is ‘out there’.
He only subsequently discovers that the silver that
he saw was not real and is only nacre. Hence, the silver
was neither real nor unreal – it is called sat
asat vilakShaNa, more commonly known as mithyA.
It is somewhat similar to prAtibhAsika satyam. The
silver is perceived by the perceiver’s mind, but it is
not a mental projection as in dream. The object silver
is ‘out there’ for him to see and thus external
to him like any other vyAvahArika satyam. It propelled
him to act; to try to acquire the silver that he saw.
VyAvahArika objects exist for vyavahAra, before and after
perception, and are available for transactions during
transmigratory existence, since they belong to Ishvara’s
sRRiShTi. On the other hand, illusory objects exist
only for as long as they are perceived. They do not
disappear by themselves. Negation of them requires an
experience that contradicts (sublates) their perception.
They are not unreal, like the son of a barren woman,
which can never be experienced. At the same time, they
are not real for transactions; I cannot make a silver
ornament out of the silver that I see where nacre is.
Since it is neither real nor unreal, it is called anirvachanIya
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