Part XXVII - The position of vishiShTAdvaita
We present here some aspects of other philosophical
positions related to determinate and indeterminate perceptions,
for the purpose of comparison. It is also interesting
to see how the advaitic position is viewed by a vishiShTadvaitin.
According to S.M. Sreenivasa Chari in ‘Fundamentals
of vishiShTAdvaita vedAnta’, the’ tatva
muktA kalApa, Vedanta Deshika’ (13th Century)
states the Advaitic position from the standpoint of
a pUrvapakSha (objector). According to Vedanta Deshika
[deshika means a guide or spiritual teacher], the Advaitin's
position is that the first contact of the sense organs
with the object reveals the mere existence (sat) devoid
of all attributes, while subsequent contact reveals
the object with attributes. The former is indeterminate
perception while the latter is determinate. According
to this understanding, they criticize the Advaitin’s
Vedanta Deshika says that perception of an object devoid
of attributes is a psychological myth. Ramanuja also
points out that apprehension of mere 'being' or existence
without any attributes does not takes place any time
and such an experience is impossible, since all cognitions
are in terms of 'this is such and such'. Nothing can
be perceived without attributes. Hence, even indeterminate
perception has to be attributive. If both determinate
and indeterminate perceptions are attributive then where
is the distinction between the two, asks the vishiShTAdvaitin?
We can put the question the other way round: if both
determinate and indeterminate perceptions are attributive,
then what is the difference between the two? Ramanuja
agrees that the first time perception of an object is
indeterminate but his explanation differs. For example,
when a child sees a cow and his mother says 'that is
a cow', he grasps the object and the attributes and
stores them in his memory – since this is the
first time a cow has been seen, he simply stores the
attributive knowledge. When he sees another cow and
then a third cow, he slowly recognizes the generic features
of ‘cow’ that makes a cow a cow and not
a horse. Hence, according to the vishiShTAdvaita position,
the first-time perception that involves no recognition
process is an indeterminate perception, while the subsequent
perceptions that involves not only cognition but also
recognition based on memory is determinate perception.
Although both cognitions are attributive, in the first
case there is no recognition while in the subsequent
perceptions there is. Therefore, cognition, recognition
and generic attributes (jAti) (e.g. of ‘cow’ in
contrast to that of ‘horse’, etc) all play
a part according to the vishiShTaadvaitic position.
There is nothing wrong with the vishiShTAdvaitic position
in classifying the first time vs the subsequent perceptions
respectively as indeterminate and determinate, but clearly
their criticism of the Advaitic position is unfounded.
S.M.S. Chari says that, according to later advaitins
as stated in vedAnta paribhAshA, indeterminate perception
is non-relational knowledge of the perceived object
and determinate perception is relational knowledge.
As an example of the former, he quotes the verbal statement
'this is that Devadatta', where the indicated identity
of the substantive is to be understood by discarding
the differences in attributive knowledge of this and
that Devadatta. S.M.S. Chari says this view is also
rejected by vedAnta deshika on the grounds that memory
involving prior perception (pratyabhij~nA) of that Devadatta
is also determinate in character. Reference is given
to Vedanata Deshika's 'Sarvartha Siddhi'. We note that
Vedanta Deshika also has written satadhUshaNi, hundred
defects in Advaita Vedanta, and one of them is related
to indeterminate perceptions.
The criticism of Vedanta Deshika related to the indicative
meaning implied in the statement 'this is that Devadatta'
is also not justified. The indeterminacy is not from
the pratyabhij~nA or deterministic aspect of prior cognition
of 'that Devadatta'. The problem with the identity statement
'this is that Devadatta' is that the identity is not
exact. Each cognition by itself (independently), i.e.
'that Devadatta' and 'this Devadatta', is deterministic.
The problem arises in the identity of these two, which
is implied by the statement 'this is that Devadatta'.
The reason is that the Devadatta which was cognized
a long time ago and who was such a cute and handsome-looking
boy is claimed to be ‘this Devadatta’, who
is an ugly-looking, fat individual. Hence, the attributes
of the two do not match and therefore there is no identity
in the attributive knowledge of the two Devadatta-s,
even though the perception is determinate in itself.
Hence the identity of the two is not obvious in order
to have a deterministic cognition of the identity. When
the teacher says 'this is that Devadatta', what is required
is faith in the teacher who made the statement; that
the teacher had knowledge that the statement is true
and then to cognize the identity using bhAga tyAga lakShaNa
(discarding the contradictory qualifications of this
and that Devadatta and unifying only the essentials).
For those who knew ‘that Devadatta’ and
now see ‘this Devadatta’, the effect of
the verbal statement ‘this is that Devadatta’ can
be immediate and direct. The recognition process requires
rejection of the contradictions in the attributive knowledge.
This is normal experience and therefore criticism of
the advaitic position is baseless.
The above criticism has a lot more bearing on the analysis
of the Vedic statement 'That art Thou' , wherein the
identity involves discarding the contradictory qualifications
of 'Thou' and 'That' and unifying only the essentials.
Before the statement was made, the Upanishad itself
provides the justification for the rejection of the
superimposed names and forms in order to see the identity
by saying that an object is its cause itself in a different
form – vAchArambhanam vikArO nAmadhEyam. The differences
are only at the level of words or speech involving the
attributes and not with regard to the substantives.
It is similar to the statement 'All ornaments in essence
are the same and therefore the ring is the necklace',
when referring to a gold ring and gold necklace. The
attributes of the ring and the necklace are different
and therefore the implied identity is not at that level.
Deterministically, the ring is different from the necklace.
Therefore, the identity is only at the substantive level,
since both are nothing but gold. As Chitsukha stated,
in verbal statements involving identity relations, the
identity is implied only at the substantial level and
not at the attributive level. The indeterminacy is inherent
due to differences in the attributive knowledge. Therefore
this criticism of the Advaitic position by Vedanta Deshika
is also baseless.
If one closely examines the vishiShTAdvaita doctrine
involved in the analysis of 'That art Thou', it also
uses some kind of bhAga tyAga to arrive at the identity
relation (although they do not admit this), and there
is indeterminacy involved in their understanding. They
use the samAnAdhikarana [integration of perception and
existing knowledge of the substantive] between the attribute
and the substantive as indicative of the implied identity.
The attributes of Thou (jIva), and those of 'That' (para
brahman), are entirely different and distinct. Since,
according to them, para brahman pervades the whole universe
of movable and immovable as indweller or antaryAmin,
in the implied identity statement one has to discard
all the attributes of the 'thou' and only equate the
essence in all 'thou' as the indweller that pervades
all 'Thou-s', since 'Thou' is part of 'That'. According
to vishiShTAdvaita, the indwelling part is only to be
involved in the identity relation and 'Thou' itself
constitutes an attribute of para brahman. Since the
attribute is inseparable from the substantive, identity
is to establish the oneness in terms of the substantive.
Taking the blue lotus as an example and addressing the ‘blue’,
one could say 'Thou art Lotus', since ‘blue’ is
an inseparable attribute of ‘lotus’ and
depends on ‘lotus’ for its existence. Then,
referring to an attribute is the same as referring to
its substantive. This is what they imply as samAnAdhikaraNa.
Without going into the validity of their analysis and
conclusion, we note that they are adopting a procedure
somewhat similar to bhAga tyAga, i.e. discarding some
parts to arrive at the implied identity relation. They
are discarding the individual attributes of the jIva
in identifying with para brahman, since jIva is part
of brahman and depends on it, while being pervaded by
it as indweller. They are in essence following Chitsukhi's
guidelines while criticizing the Advaitic stance. Hence
their criticism of the Advaitic position is unwarranted.
Proceed to the next