Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part XXXVI- 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 paragraph.

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 on brahman.

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 to exist.

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 I know.

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 that substantive.

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.

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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