Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part XI - Unity of limiting consciousness for perception

In the example of the jar and space, there is nothing but limitless Brahman, whose nature is existence-consciousness, appearing as limiting consciousness (actually as limiting existence) in the form of a jar (‘form’ here stands for the attributes of the jar, which are different from those of mug or vessel) with the associated name of 'jar'. The ‘name’ provides the generic attribute of ‘jar-ness’ or ‘jar-hood’ . The senses measure those attributes, since the substantive Brahman has no attributes. ‘Existence’ is not an attribute. (If existence were an attribute, then we would need another substantive for the attributive existence, i.e. we would need another Brahman whose nature is existence. Then we would run into infinite regress. In addition, if existence were an attribute, then the attribute should be different from the substantive. The only thing that is different from existence is non-existence. Now we run into self-contradiction. The non-existence which is different from existence becomes a substantive for the attributive existence, i.e. existence would be an attribute for non-existence. A non-existent substantive is no substantive. Hence, existence cannot be an attribute as some philosophers argue. Hence, advaita says that ‘existence-consciousness’ is a svarUpa or inherent nature of Brahman. Here, language is too limited to express the svarUpa lakShaNa of Brahman As the scriptures say, ‘words cannot reach there’!).

When the sense-input forms a vRRitti in the mind whose attributes are the same as those of the jar, the one to one correspondence between the existent-attributive vRRitti and existent-attributive jar is established. This is stated in VP as ‘the limiting consciousness of the object jar is united with the limiting consciousness of the vRRitti, the mental mood for the completion of the perception’.

The truth of this becomes clear, since Brahman is all pervading and limitless. The only differences between one object and another are the attributes that define the objects. In the perception of 'this is jar', the attributes of the jar are measured and carried to the mind, where a vRRitti is formed consisting of the same attributes that were measured. Brahman in the form of jar is now Brahman in the form of the vRRitti in the mind, since everything is nothing but Brahman. The same statement is expressed as: “the limiting consciousness of Brahman in the form of jar is now united with the limiting consciousness of Brahman in the form of vRRitti”, since the attributes of both the object outside and vRRitti inside are the same. The substantives for both jar outside and vRRitti inside are also the same since Brahman is limitless and indivisible.

To be more exact, the expression of Brahman is different in different limiting adjuncts. Brahman’s expression depends on the nature of the adjuncts. In the case of very gross products or the gross world, the inertness is obvious. In all these, the all-pervading Brahman is expressed as just the existence - sat svarUpa. Hence we say that the jar IS, where the ‘is-ness’ is the expression of its existence. Hence, the object ‘jar’ is Brahman expressed as existence with the name ‘jar’ and the form of ‘all the attributes superimposed on that existence’.

In the case of jar or any other tangible object, the existence ‘exists’ in a grosser form. All gross forms consist of pa~ncha bhUta-s [five elements] transformed by a recombination process, keeping Brahman as their substantive. If the object is subtle, as in the case of the mind, Brahman can then express as an existent and conscious entity, since the mind can reflect the light of consciousness much better than a gross object. It is like a mirror that can reflect light better than a stone. The degree of reflection depends on the reflecting medium. Perception of jar therefore involves perception of Brahman in the limiting existence in the form of a jar with its attributes.

During the process of perception, the attributes are gathered by the senses and are projected in the mind as a vRRitti. Although the attributes are the same in both the jar and vRRitti, the mind is a subtler expression of Brahman as opposed to the jar which is a grosser expression. Hence, in the vRRitti, Brahman is expressed not only as ‘existence’ similar to that in the jar, but also as ‘reflected consciousness’, since the vRRitti which is nothing but a mental mood can reflect the light of consciousness better than the gross material of the jar. Hence considering all this, we can state that perception is said to be complete if the existence of the jar with its attributes unites with the existence of the vRRitti with the same attributes as sensed by the senses. Since existence is all pervading, all that requires to be carried by the senses are the attributes of the object to the vRRitti. It is also a fact that the senses can carry only attributes and not the substantive itself. Hence, perception is complete as soon as the attributes are projected on to the vRRitti or image or mental mood that is formed in the mind.

The vRRitti is illumined as it forms, since mind has the capacity to reflect the illuminating consciousness. The limiting reflected consciousness by the vRRitti is the knowledge of the vRRitti, which is the same as the knowledge of the object. A vRRitti is nothing but existence with the attributes that are gathered by the senses and those attributes are the same as the attributes of the jar, which is also nothing but existence with the attributes. Thus there is an identity of the two – object jar and the vRRitti – as both are existence with the attributes of the jar. The only difference is that existence is expressed in the jar in a grosser form while it is expressed in a subtle form in the vRRitti. The other difference would depend on how far the senses could gather the attributes from the jar and carry them to the vRRitti. In some cases the senses can be trained to pick up finer differences in tastes, different shades in colors or finer differences in forms which may not be possible for untrained senses. There are professional wine tasters and tea tasters who can distinguish finer differences in tastes to know which is better or more easily sellable!

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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