Re-examination of the Perceptual Process (based upon some questions
raised on the previous material) – Part 5
10. Objection: The basis of your entire
analysis seems to be the premise that, in the case of
a gold ring, gold is the substance and ring is an attribute.
I have not been able to find any support for this view
in any work on advaita vedAnta. Substance (dravya) and
attribute (guNa) are defined in the vaisheShika work
known as ‘tarka saMgraha’ and these definitions
have been accepted by vedAnta with some modification.
According to these definitions, the substances are nine
in number: the five elements, kAla [time], dik [space],
Atma and mind. Advaita accepts only the five elements
and mind as substances and not the other three. This
means that all things that are made up of the five elements,
both before or after quintuplication (pa~nchIkAraNam),
are substances. The mind is made up of the sattva parts
of all the five elements and it is therefore treated
as a substance. Twenty-four attributes are postulated
by vaisheShika, out of which color, taste, smell, touch,
sound, number, size, fluidity, viscidity, and weight
are accepted by advaita as attributes.
In the case of a clay pot, the clay as well as the
pot are substances. Pot is not an attribute of clay.
In the anubhUtiprakAsha of Swami Vidyaranya, in shloka
26 of the chapter on the aitareya up., a pot is described
as a mere `sannivesha' (a different form) of clay. Clay
by itself does not have any form. It may be made into
the form of a ball or a pot, plate or doll. All these
are substances and not attributes of clay.
Sri Shankara says in his bhAShya on the brahma sutra
2.1.18: "A thing does not become different just
because of the appearance of some special feature (such
as a new form). Devadatta does not become a different
person when he is sitting or standing, though he appears
different". This, of course, is intended to show
that the effect is not different from the cause, but
I am quoting this to show that nowhere is it stated
that an effect, such as a pot, is an attribute of
its cause, clay. The effect is also a substance. Pot
, plate, doll, etc. made of clay are substances and
not attributes, just as much as a clay ball is.
When a person sees something white at a distance and
is not able to make out exactly what it is, he says, "I
see some white object lying there" and not, "I
see whiteness". So what he sees is a white object
and not just the quality `whiteness'. No attribute can
remain without a locus. Of course when the nose detects
a smell, it knows only the smell, but that is because
the object can be known only by the eye or the sense
of touch. In vedAnta no distinction is made between
the subtle element earth and its specific quality, smell.
So what the nose knows is the subtle element earth,
which is a substance as stated earlier. The same with
the other senses. This is clarified in the following
It would also not be correct to say that the senses
can know only qualities. Each sense organ is, according
to vedAnta, created out of the sattva aspect of the
corresponding element. Sri Shankara says in his bhAShya
on bRRihadAraNyaka Up. 2.4.11, " The shruti considers
the objects to be of the same category as the objects,
not of a different category. The organs are but modes
of the objects in order to perceive them, as (the light
of) a lamp, which is but a mode of color, is an instrument
for revealing all colors". Here the light, which
is fire, is described as a mode of color, which we consider
as a quality or attribute. This shows that vedAnta equates
the subtle element and its quality. The subtle sense-organ,
eye, is, according to vedAnta, made out of the sattva
part of the subtle element fire. When it sees color,
it is seeing the subtle element fire. This may not be
in accordance with science. According to vedAnta vision
takes place by the mind stretching out through the eyes
and reaching the external object and taking the form
of the object. The explanation of science on how vision
takes place is quite different, but when we are dealing
with vedAnta we have to take the explanation given by
vedAnta and not the one given by science.
So the conclusion is that the senses reveal the objects
and not their attributes alone. You seem to proceed
on the basis that brahman is a substance and the things
in this world are its attributes. I have already stated
above that the effect is not an attribute of the cause,
but both the effect and the cause are substances. Advaita
does not consider brahman as a substance at all. All
substances are negated for describing brahman by the
words `neti', `neti'. The bhagavad gItA 13.12 says that
brahman is neither sat nor asat, meaning that it cannot
be described as a thing with form or as a thing without
form. The kenopaniShad says that brahman is different
from the known as well as the unknown. All these mean
that brahman is not a substance. Moreover, it has been
clearly stated in the bhAShya that there can be no relationship
between brahman which is absolutely real and the world
which has only empirical reality. So there cannot be
the relationship of substance and attribute between
brahman and the world.
Six pramANa-s are recognized by advaita. Each of these
operates in its own sphere. pratyakSha shows everything
as real. The karma kANDa is based on the acceptance
of this world as well as the higher worlds as real,
as Sri Shankara has pointed out while declaring that
there is no conflict between karma and j~nAna kANDa-s.
Before one learns vedAnta, one looks upon the world
as absolutely real. The dvaitins contended that the
testimony of pratyakSha cannot be set aside by shruti.
Madhusudana Sarasvati, while dealing with this contention
in advaita siddhi, does not dispute the fact that pratyakSha
shows the world to be real. But he says that shruti,
which is apauruSheya and therefore free from all defects,
overrules pratyakSha which is sometimes found to give
wrong knowledge. So, when we are expounding pratyakSha,
we have to take the world as real.
The Atma, for the purpose of karma kANDa, is the subtle
body with consciousness, because it is that which goes
to heaven and not the pure Atma as described in the
Upanishads. . Combining pratyakSha and shruti would
be like saying that even in karma kANDa the Atma should
be taken as the pure Atma which is described in the
Upanishads as free from all association with even the
subtle body. That would make the karma kANDa devoid
of any applicability. So we have to go step by step.
pratyakSha explains how perception takes place and,
as far as this pramANa is concerned, the world is real.
Then we go to the next higher step and go to the shruti.
dharmarAja has mentioned liberation as the ultimate
goal to be reached. But before that he has described
the various pramANa-s, which are applicable on the basis
that the world is real. This is similar to the veda-s
prescribing various rituals to be performed as long
as one considers the world to be real because of avidyA.
It is only when avidyA has been eliminated that the
world becomes unreal and the veda-s, and even the upaniShad-s,
become inapplicable. So, the fact that he has spoken
about liberation cannot be taken to mean that everything
he says is on the basis that brahman alone is real and
the world is mithyA. That is a later and concluding
stage. As far as pratyakSha is concerned, the world
is real, because pratyakSha pramANa deals only with
the vyAvahArika reality. Thus there are two steps. The
first is pratyakSha by which we see the world. The second
is the application of the shruti statements such as
`neha nAnAsti kiMchana' which say that the world which
we see has no absolute reality and is only an appearance
Response: Gold is the substantive. ‘Ring’ is
not an attribute; it is a noun, but has no substantive
of its own and it has the attributes of the ring. The
ring is an object – this has not been denied - but ‘ring’ is
the name for the attributive contents of the substantive
gold; it is the nAma for the related rUpa, rasa etc. All
products are nothing but the material cause itself in
different forms. The locus of the attributes is a ring;
but it is actually only gold, in that particular form
with the distinguishing name ‘ring’. There
is no other validity for the object other than its substantive
gold together with the attributes of ‘ring’.
I am not denying the existence of gold at the vyavahAra
level – it is the material cause for the ring
Objects are real in vyavahAra and this has not been denied. What
is denied is that the senses gather the substantive along with
its attributes as part of the perceptual process. That is an
assumption and not a fact as I have shown, and that assumption
has no scientific basis and no Vedantic basis either as far as
There are j~nAnendriya-s, through which knowledge takes place,
and there are karmendriya-s, through which transactions take
place. A transaction within vyavahAra involves both knowledge
of an object at the attributive level and the transaction itself
at the substantive level.
Hence, in the description of turIya, we have: yat adreshyam,
agrAhyam… - that which cannot be seen (denying at the
j~nAnendriya level and then by agrAhyam denying at the karmendriya
level) resulting in avyavahAryam - non-transactability.
Please note that I have never denied the existence of the object ‘ring’.
The ring is there for transactional purposes. I have provided
a detailed account of how the attributive knowledge and the
substantive gold form the basis for a transaction or vyavahAra.
The ring is real for vyavahAra. There is no dravya [substance]of
its own for the ring other than gold. Gold matter provides
I am familiar with the rest of the arguments that you have presented,
but the tArkika philosophers utilize various axiomatic statements
as the basis for their analysis of dravya-s etc and I do not
want to enter into any detailed analysis of these. ShrI vedAnta
Deshika has his own definition of dravya-s and adravyA-s.
I did look into the pa~nchadashI shloka that you mentioned.
From my point of view, that shloka does not negate what has
been presented. The reference which I made to Vidyaranya swami’s
statement regarding AdhAra and Adheya jnAna comes from AnubhutiprakAsha
(Ch. 3 of his analysis of Ch. Up mantras). I do not have the
text here to quote the specific mantra.
What has been stated represents the correct advaitic position
as far as I understand it, as well as being both logically and
scientifically valid. I have not found any convincing arguments
that really contradict my statements, either in vedAnta paribhAshA
or in other texts.
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