Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part VIII - Some Objections

With the background of Parts 1 - 7, we are now ready to address some specific objections and answers provided in VP. Some of the questions and answers may appear to be irrelevant but we will go through them for completeness.

Q: Consciousness has no beginning. How can one say that knowledge, which has been equated to consciousness alone, can have a beginning?

A: It is not consciousness itself but consciousness reflected in the vRRitti that has a beginning. Since the vRRitti has a beginning, therefore its reflection must have, too. The limited reflected consciousness is figuratively called ‘knowledge arising in the mind’.

Without going into details about vivaraNa versus bhAmatI schools, in terms of who says what, we note that all knowledge takes place in the mind only. Consciousness reflected in the mind is called chidAbhAsa, which is also called ego. Knowledge of an object is represented by a thought or vRRitti and the thought is illumined by consciousness as it rises. Since an object is limited, the vRRitti is also limited. Illumination and the reflection of the vRRitti make me conscious of the vRRitti and thus conscious of the object. This is figuratively called knowledge - but it is ‘knowledge of’ rather than pure knowledge itself. Pure knowledge has no beginning and therefore no end, as has already been established by saying that knowledge is continuous. We have also made the distinction between pure knowledge and knowledge of an object at the beginning of this analysis.

Q: Mind is considered as having no parts. If a vRRitti or mental state, which is limited, arises in the mind, the mind will have to be considered as having parts. This violates the first statement.

A: Yes, because the first statement that mind has no parts is not correct, since it is a substance and a substance has a beginning according to sRRiShTi prakaraNa. The reflected consciousness is considered as attributive knowledge (‘knowledge of’), which is a mental state. There are other mental states such as desire, resolve, doubt, faith, want of faith, steadiness, unsteadiness, shame, intelligence, fear – all these constitute the mind says the Shruti (Br. I-5-3). All of the above are called ‘mental states’ and are considered to be attributes of the mind.

Q: If desire, etc are attributes of the mind, this contradicts the statements that we normally make, such as 'I want, I know, I am afraid’ etc, about experiences that are attributed not to the mind but to the self that I am. I do not say that the mind wants or the mind knows or the mind is afraid. I always say that ‘I’ want, etc. How can these experiences of the self be explained, if you argue that they are attributes of the mind?

A: If we consider a red hot iron ball, we say that the iron ball is burning. But burning is not a property of iron ball. The iron ball just remains as a black ,wrought iron ball. The red hotness is not a property of the iron ball. When it is put in a fire, it becomes red hot. The iron ball provides a locus for fire. Because of its association, the properties of the fire are being superimposed on the iron ball, and we falsely make a statement that the 'iron ball is burning'. Similarly, the self that I am is the substratum on which mental moods are superimposed. The moods belong to the mind not to the self. The self is always free from these changing moods. We use expressions such as ‘I am happy’, ‘I am miserable’ etc, due to false identification of myself with the mind and its attributes.

Hence, ‘I am happy’ or ‘I am miserable’ are only modifications of the mind and they do not belong to the self that I am. Due to this false identification, I take myself to be happy or miserable etc. The false identification arises because I do not know who I am. Hence, ignorance of myself is the root cause of the problem of this superimposition.

Q: If the mind is a sense organ, it must be imperceptible. However, you say the moods of the minds are seen. How can the mind see the mind, if it is a sense organ?

Note: Here the question perhaps is raised from a bhAmatI standpoint, in which the mind is also considered to be one of the sense organs. Sense organs cannot perceive themselves; i.e. eyes cannot see the eyes, tongue cannot taste itself. We need a mirror to see the eyes. The question therefore has the implied assumption that the mind is also a sense organ. Interestingly, the Kenopanishad says in pointing to the Self: it is the eye of the eye, ear of the ear, etc. A man who has been born blind says ‘I cannot see, I am blind’. To him, a Vedantin might ask: Can you see that you are blind? The blind man can answer 'Yes, I can see that I cannot see'. With what eye can he see that his eyes cannot see? That is the ‘eye of the eye’.

A: There is nothing to prove that mind is one of the sense organs. Hence the question is not valid.

Q: The proof comes from the B. Gita Ch.15-7. The second part of the shloka is: manaH ShaTAnIdriyANi prakRRitishAni karShati – From prakRRiti, (the five) sense organs and the sixth, the mind, are gathered or attracted by the jIva.

A: That is not a proof that mind is the sixth sense organ. It states that five indriya-s and the sixth one, the mind, together are attracted by the jIva. Mind is separated from the indriya-s and is not included with it. [VP provides several example where counting is done in a group which includes other categories as well. Similarly, in the above shloka, the mind is counted as the sixth but not as the sixth sense organ. Hence, mind does not belong to the category of sense organs.

Look at the following statement: 'He taught Vedas and Mahabharata as the fifth' - where Mahabharata is also counted, not as part of the Vedas since we know there are only four Vedas, but as something significant that is countable in the list of things that were taught.]

It might be argued that if mind is not considered as one of the sense organs, then the cognition of happiness will not be direct and immediate in the mind. If one makes such an argument, then that argument is also not correct. Immediacy does not necessarily rest on the mind being considered as a sense organ. If mind is considered as a sense organ, and if that is the necessary and sufficient requirement for immediacy, then even inference (logical deduction), which is mediate, will become immediate (involving no deduction). However, we know that it is not the case. Sometimes one has to think deeply, perhaps for several hours, in order to arrive at the inferential knowledge. Hence, the requirement that the mind has to be a sense organ for immediacy of mental moods of happiness, etc, is not necessary. In addition, if we push this argument further, we would have to say that, in order for God to know everything instantaneously, we would have to provide him also with some sense organs to facilitate that immediate knowledge. Hence, mind is not considered as the sixth sense organ. Mind can have a sixth sense (i.e. information not fed by the five sense organs) which could be intuitive knowledge but here the discussion only pertains to the mind being categorized as one of the sense organs and not mind having a sixth sensibility. Next we will discuss internal perceptions in contrast to perceptions of external objects.

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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Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012