Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

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

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Part LIII - vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 2

Since the senses cannot grasp Ishvara, the substantive of all, they gather the attributive content of the objects that are within their reach. Since the attributes are not the objects per se, it appears that in the perceptual process the attributes are getting separated from the substantive. But the attributes cannot exist without the substantive. Since Ishvara is all pervading or infinite and the substantive of everything, attributes cannot be separated from the Ishvara, either. In the relative plane, each of the five senses measure the attributes of the objects ‘out there’ depending on their capabilities, and the measured attributes become locussed in the imaged ‘vRRitti’ that forms in the mind. Thus, the object ‘out there’ with its attributes, and the associated vRRitti-s in the mind with their sense-measured attributes, are inter-related as the latter is the image of the former, created by the individual jIva in his own mind.

We can consider that the objects ‘out there’ are Ishvara’s sRRiShTi while the image formed in the mind is jIva’s sRRiShTi, although the mind of the jIva and the capacity of the mind to create come from Ishvara alone. Thus, the perceptuality condition is stated by VP as occurring when the existence of the object out there is imaged in form of the vRRitti. This existence now in the form of a vRRitti is united with the consciousness of the subject, on order for the subject to be conscious of the vRRitti. Thus, through the vRRitti, consciousness of an object ‘out there’, together with its attributes as gathered by the senses, becomes our perceptual knowledge of the object. The vRRitti replicates in a subtle form the object out there, only to the extent that the senses were able to capture the attributive content. Errors can therefore arise if the attributive content of the vRRitti does not completely replicate the original object. The reasons could be defects in the senses or defects in the auxiliary causes such as insufficient light, or some other obstructions, etc. Therefore what I see as the world is limited by my senses.

At the individual level, the jIva also does exactly the same in the creation of his dream world at the microcosmic level. He becomes an ‘Ishvara’ for the creation of the dream world of plurality. The intelligent and the material cause rests with the jIva for his dream.

We can broadly define the vyAvahArika satyam or transactional reality as corresponding to Ishvara’s sRRiShTi and prAtibhAsika as corresponding to the individual’s mental projection of the world of plurality. When the jIva goes to sleep, the mind of the jIva, supported by the same witnessing consciousness, now forms the basis for the projection of the dream world of plurality. Interestingly, mind not only projects the inert objects, but even the sentient entities in the dream world along with a jIva who is now localized as a separate subject experiencing the dream world of plurality. That jIva in the dream is awake and has his own body, mind and intellect separate from those of the waking beings .

Thus, the analogy between the dream world of the jIva sRRiShTi and the waking world of Ishvara’s sRRiShTi is exact. For the dreamer jIva (who is actually awake in the dream), the dream world is real just as the waker jIva in the waking world sees the waking world as real, while concluding that the dream world that he saw in his dream was not real since it is sublated. This conclusion, however, is by a waker and not a dreamer. For a dreamer, the dream world is as real as the mind that sees and feels in the waking state. Considering the dreamer subject, he perceives the objects of the dream world in front of him, through his senses, just as happens in the waking world – so states the Mandukya Up. In fact, the Upanishad uses a parallel statement for dream as it does for the waking world: ‘ekona vimshati mukhaH’ .. etc, describing the dreamer’s outlook into the dream world as parallel to the waker’s outlook onto the waking world.

The perceptuality condition has to be satisfied in the dream world too. The dream world is external to the dreamer. His mind may project internal perceptions and vRRitti-s in his mind, which are different from the minds of the other jIva-s in his dream world. What is external and what is internal is now defined from the point of the dreamer’s tiny mind. The waker’s mind that went into sleep is now all pervading and forms the material cause for all the objects and beings, including their body-mind-intellect assemblies. Thus, we have vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika in the dream world too, where vyAvahArika is defined as ‘Ishvara’s’ (the waking jIva) sRRiShTi and prAtibhAsika is jIva’s (the dreaming jIva) sRRiShTi. The relative planes have shifted relative to each other – the systems otherwise are exactly parallel.

What is real and what is unreal in these projections therefore depends on the reference plane. The absolute reality independent of any frame of reference, as the Mandukya Up. declares in mantra 7, is turIya – the pure existence-consciousness, which is advaitam, one without a second. That alone is the absolute truth. In all other planes of reference, the limiting existence-consciousness manifests as relative knowledge as a result of the perceptual process. The declaration of the scriptures is: you are that. When one is conscious of the object, the consciousness that beams through as reflected consciousness in the form of knowledge of the object is nothing but pure consciousness alone, as declared by VP in the very introduction to the topic of perception. Every perception of any object is therefore soaked in my consciousness in order for me to be conscious of the object. Hence Bhagavan Ramana says in his Upadesha sAra:

dRRishya vAritam chittamAtmanAH|
chitta darshanam tattva darshanam||

In the perception of every object (dRRishya), there is existence-consciousness reflected on it. Hence, if we remove the attributive content (or look beyond the attributive content), what is there in every dRRishya is pure existence-consciousness alone. The existence of the object is united with the consciousness of the subject to cause perceptual knowledge. The substantive for both the object and the subject is pure existence-consciousness alone. Ramana states that understanding of the substantive forms the basis for the inquiry into the nature of the reality of the jIva-jagat or subject-object duality.

Hence, the introductory VP statement – pratyakshapramA cha atra chaitanyam eva (knowledge of perception as ‘conscious of the object’) is nothing but pure consciousness alone – is justified by the detailed analysis of the perceptual process. Shifting from the attributing content of the vRRitti to the illuminating consciousness that forms the basis for the knowledge of the object forms an essential sAdhanA for recognizing that the substantive for the whole world of objects is nothing but consciousness alone. The scriptural declaration ‘sarvaM khalvidam brahma’ (all this is nothing but Brahman) becomes evident as a result of inquiry into the perceptual process. When the objects are perceived with their attributive contents, along with the attributive knowledge which is represented as ‘form’, naming has to take place representing the knowledge. Naming is knowing, and perceptual knowledge therefore leads to name and form constituting the world of objects, since the substantive is Brahman, which is beyond name and form. Hence, an object is nothing but Brahman with name and form. The statement also implies that world is perceived by a conscious entity establishing its existence with names and forms. Hence, the world is established by the knowledge of its existence. Without a conscious entity, a world cannot be independently established.

This concludes the vedAnta paribhAshA’s analysis of the pratyakSha pramANa or perception. The next part will begin analysis of anumAna or inference.

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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Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012