Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part XXXI - vAchArambhanaNaM

Knowledge reveals itself

If there an object 'pot' right in front of me then, when I open my eyes, I cannot but see the object, assuming that the mind is not preoccupied. Sense input is immediate and the vRRitti of the object formed based on the sense input is also immediate. When a vRRitti is illumined by the light of consciousness, reflection of that light by the vRRitti constitutes the knowledge of the vRRitti. Now not only do I know that 'this is pot', but I also know that 'I know that this is pot'. I.e. besides having the knowledge of the pot, I also know that I have the knowledge of the pot. Pot knowledge is known by the limiting reflecting consciousness of the pot-vRRitti. If we ask what reveals knowledge of the pot knowledge, we can only say that knowledge is self-revealing. Knowledge of an object requires illumination by the light of consciousness, but we do not need to illumine the illuminated knowledge.

What this means is that knowledge is of the nature of illumination and one does need to illumine another illumination. We do not need another light to see a light. That is, it is the very nature of knowledge to reveal the nature of the object and also reveal itself. Knowledge is self-revealing and does not need another knowledge to reveal it, apart from the fact that this would lead to infinite regress. Hence, ChitsukhAchArya says that knowledge is immediately apprehended without being objectified, since it is self-luminous. Hence, when I say 'here is a pot', the pot knowledge is apprehended along with the knowledge 'I know that there is a pot here'. Here, we are essentially separating the knowledge of an object and the cognition of the object although the cognition of the object and the knowledge of that cognition are effectively simultaneous.

Q: Do we not see the object first and its attributes later?

A: Object knowledge results from sensory input of attributes only. Here is the reasoning:
1. Brahman is the material cause for the universe. (yato vA imAni bhUtani jAyante etc. – Tait. U. III.i.1 and janmAdhyasya yataH – B.S. I.i.2).

2. Logical analysis shows that the effect is nothing but the cause itself in a different form (kArya kAraNa samAnAdhikAra).

3. The Upanishads give three laukika or worldly examples of this:
. pots are nothing but clay itself in different forms
. ornaments are nothing but gold itself in different forms
. iron tools are nothing but iron itself in different forms.

The classical example is from the Chandogya Upanishad. Verse 6.1.5 is as follows:

yathA somyaikena lohamaNinA sarvaM lohamayaM viGYAta\m+
syAdvAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAmadheyaM lohamityeva satyamH

Verily, child, as the knowledge of (the nature of) a single clod of earth makes manifest (the nature of) all earthen objects, (and shows) that the various fabrications indicated by different words and names are in truth only earth,

The word ‘eva’ [just so, indeed, truly; most frequently used to strengthen the meaning of the associated word - exactly, same, even, only etc.] implies that gold alone is real and not the names and forms or kAryam-s [effects or products]. A ring is nothing but gold itself in a different form. Ring, bangle, bracelet, etc are vAchArambhanam vikAro nAmadheyam - just names and forms for the same substantive gold. By saying that gold alone is real, it dismisses any reality of the products; the material cause or substantive cause alone is real, not the superficial names and forms. Hence the famous statement ‘vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAmadheyaM’ is repeated many times in the chapter to drive home the fact that all objects have no substantive other than Brahman. Hence ‘neha nAnAsti kiMchana’ [there is no diversity here (Br. U. 4.iv.19)] and ‘sarvaM khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily brahman (CH. U. 3. 14.1)]. There is nothing other than brahman and, if one sees something other than Brahman, then it is just name and form and has no substantive other than Brahman. Hence we have the prayer that is said before taking food: brahmArpaNaM brahma havir etc. [Brahman the offering, Brahman the oblation (Bhag. Gita IV.24)].

4. Going back to our worldly example: When I say ‘it is a ring’, I am seeing ring attributes which are different from gold attributes. Based on the ring attributes, I say ‘it is a ring’ and based on bracelet attributes I say ‘it is a bracelet’. There is no ‘ring substance’ and no ‘bracelet substance’ to differentiate the two. The substantive for both is gold alone and only this is real. The gold of both ring and bracelet is not differentiable. ‘loham iti eva satyam’ implies that the ‘real’ is not the ring or bangle or bracelet. These are all vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAmadheyaM – the product (vikAra) is just dependent upon mere words or some merely verbal difference (vAchArambhanaNaM), with a name (nAmadheyam). We have to give the ring a name, based on its particular attributes, in order to differentiate it from a bangle and its particular attributes. But they are just words; just speech for transactional purposes - nAma for rUpa [names for forms]. (rUpa in general includes - shabda, sparsha, rUpa, rasa, gandha - the five sense inputs of sound , touch, appearance, taste and smell.) So ring, bangle etc. are all the same gold but with different names and forms and with different utilities. Ring, bangle etc are just 'pAda-s' or names without any padArtha or material substance of their own to separate them.

Gold attributes are different from ring attributes; they include such things as luster, malleability, resistance to corrosion etc. Gold is recognized from its attributes. The laukika or worldly examples are given to indicate that the material cause pervades its products. Products of the same material cause are nothing but names and forms (attributes) of that same material. This is what is referred to as vyavahAra satyam. Saying that gold ALONE (eva) is real dismisses the names and form as not real. But they are not unreal either since they have transactional reality. Hence, vyavahAra satyam is provided by the ‘vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAamadheyaM’ statement. pAramArthika satyam and vyAvahArika satyam relate to kAraNa (causal) and kArya (product) levels.

5. After establishing that the material cause alone manifests in a variety of names and forms, the Chandogya Upanishad goes into an elaborate description of the cause for the whole universe with sadeva somyedamagra AsI (6.2.1) relating to Brahman as the material cause. The whole of Chandogya 6th chapter up to section 7 centers on establishing that brahman is satyam and jagat is mithyA, with brahman as the material cause for all of the subtle and gross elements of the universe. From section 8 to 16, it completes the teaching of ‘jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH’ [the jIva is not different from brahman] – with the statement ‘tat tvam asi’ [that thou art] . Thus, the whole advaitic teaching is packed into that Chapter. mithyA is neither real nor unreal; it is mAyA, or adhyAsa – a superimposition on the real, just as ring is a superimposition on the gold.

Hence, according to Advaita, Brahman alone is the material cause and everything is nothing but form and name (attributes with nAmadheyam - like ring and bangle etc.)

6. Only attributes can be gathered by the senses, not the substantive. In the case of the ring and bangle example, I gather attributes of the ring and attributes of the gold. If the ring is made of iron, then I gather attributes of the ring and attributes of the iron. There is no ‘ringly substantive’ to separate it from a ‘bangly substantive’.

7. According to Vedanta, sat is the material cause. sat has no attributes since attributes belong to finite things, not the infinite. Therefore, the senses can gather all the attributes of worldly objects but there are no attributes of Brahman since Brahman is all pervading.

8. If one understand vedAnta paribhAshA correctly, it clearly says that the perceptuality condition involves unity of the subject consciousness with the object consciousness formed as a vRRitti of the object in the mind. The contents of this vRRitti are the attributes of the object, as perceived by the senses. Since Brahman expresses vividly in inert objects as pure existence, this unity is the unity of the subject consciousness with the objects existence in the form of the vRRitti. When the vRRitti is formed in the mind, it reflects the illumination of the witnessing consciousness and this reflected, limiting consciousness of the object is what constitutes ‘knowledge’ of the object.

In the discussion of creation, the Chandogya says ‘bahu syAm’ (let me become many) (6.2.3). sat becoming many produces the varieties of objects in the world. Objects are nothing but vAchArambhaNaM vikAro nAamadheyaM, merely words with names and forms. Forms are only attributes, with no substantive of their own. From the scientific viewpoint, there are no svarUpa lakShaNa-s for objects since they are made up of parts. Brahman alone has svarUpa lakShaNa, since He is part-less. At each level of transaction, we have only transactional reality.

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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