Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part XXXIV- Re-examination of the Perceptual Process (based upon some questions raised on the previous material) – Part 3

I will next address some epistemological issues that have been raised. I will paraphrase the questions raised in relation to the above description of attributive knowledge of an object. Some of the objections have already been addressed but they are being repeated in order to focus on the issues involved.

1. Objection: That the mind gains only attributive and not substantial knowledge from the vRRitti is similar to the philosophy of vij~nAna vAda of Buddhism and to Western Idealism. For them also there are no objects out there. That object knowledge is only attributive knowledge counts against Vedanta.

Response: Absolutely not. There is a difference between attributive-object knowledge and vij~nAna vAda or Western Idealism. When the senses gather attributes from a perceived object, those attributes are not created by the seer or his mind. There is an objective or empirical reality or vyAvahArika satyam. The objects, together with their attributes, are the creation of Ishvara. The jIva’s creation manifests only in dream states, whereas Ishvara’s creation is in the waking state. According to Advaita Vedanta, Ishvara himself became many (bahusyam - let me become many). The different objects, and the divergent attributes that distinguish them, stem from a creation that is based upon previous karma. Each object is an assemblage of the basic elements, the pa~ncha bhUta-s, the five primordial elements that come from Ishvara. Ishvara’s creation includes the minds of those beings that perceive the objects through their senses. The minds, the objects they perceive, and the attributive knowledge of the objects gained through the senses and mind, are ontologically in par. The only difference is that the mind is made up subtle elements while the objects are made with gross elements. This is one of the reasons why physical objects do not enter into the mind.

2. Objection: How do we know that the senses bring in only attributes and not the substance, since substance and attributes are inseparable?

Response: It is well known that when I see an object, the image of the object is formed on the retina and this image is then transmitted as an electrical signal to the brain. The projection of 3-D forms occurs because of the presence of two eyes. The object remains outside while the image is formed on the retina and transmitted to the brain. This is where physics ends. The electrical input is transformed (though how is not yet understood) into what Vedanta calls a vRRitti in the mind. Hence, only those attributes that can be measured by the senses are fed into the brain and thence to the mind. The mind being subtle and the object being gross, it is just as well that the substance does not enter into the brain and therefore into the mind! These are facts that we understand so far.

3. Objection: Form and color are not the only attributes. There are other sense inputs: shabda, sparsha, rasa, gandha, etc. Image formation is only at the optical level. Hence, the above explanation is not valid.

Response: The optical signal processing is very clear and is faster than the processing of other signals. All sense-inputs are transferred via electrical inputs to the brain. If the nervous system fails, then electrical signal input fails and the input from the corresponding senses also fails. If all senses fail, no knowledge of the external world occurs. These are facts that we know. There are no assumptions involved here. Having more than one type of attribute does not make the process any different. All signal processing is the same. There may be parallel processing instead of series processing, i.e. simultaneous information feed rather than sequential feed. However, at the vRRitti level, the thought in the mind appears to be sequential not parallel. One does not have two simultaneous thoughts.

4. Objection: The mind is not a two dimensional screen for projection, as the analysis implies.

Response: The analysis does not assume that the mind is a two-dimensional screen. Virtual images of 3-D can be made easily and can be seen. Conceptually, the process is the same. The above analysis is valid even if one considers the mind to be 3-D or even multi-dimensional. The mind remains subtle even if it is multi-dimensional, while the matter outside is gross. According to Vedanta, the mind is a part of the subtle body, which is formed by the subtle elements before pa~nchIkaraNam [literally causing anything to contain the five elements]. The matter (bhautika) outside is gross and formed after pa~nchIkaraNam. The objects are made up of gross matter and their attributes are subtle. Sensory communication takes place via transmitted, coded signals. The senses form part of the subtle body.

5. Objection: An object is not just a substance. It has attributes which may differ from the attributes of the substance of which it is made. For example, a ring is different from gold, the material substance. When VP says that an object ‘ring’ is perceived, the ring object that is perceived by the mind does not necessarily have only the attributes of the ring itself.

Response: No. The substance is in the form of an object, where form constitutes an attribute of the object along with other attributes. The object itself is notional, since it is the material or substantive itself in that form. When attributes are perceived, a locus is formed for the attributes and that locus is the vRRitti in the mind. That vRRitti is the ‘object ring’ that is perceived. The ‘object ring’ that is perceived is as real as the mind that perceives it. Within vyavahAra, ontologically both are equally real or equally unreal, depending on one’s vision or understanding.

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