Part I - Introduction
So far, we have been discussing knowledge acquired
through the perceptual process. This is the direct
and immediate means of gaining knowledge of objects
and thus the world. Our five senses form the means
through which the external world is perceived. Similarly,
the perception of internal emotions also happens directly
and immediately. Since it is immediate and direct,
perceptual knowledge occurs in the present. However,
the present is not in time; it is actually beyond
the time concept as was discussed earlier. One can ‘ride’ on
the present, live in the present, work in the present
and enjoy only in the present, but still there is
no ‘time’ in the present. It is a dynamic
present and not static. Life involves movement. Movement
involves a reference. That which is static throughout
the dynamic is one’s presence.
For time to be conceptualized, one needs two sequential
events or experiences, present and past, translated
as ‘now’ and ‘then’. Hence,
living all the time in the present is the same as
going beyond the ‘time’ concept, and this
requires tremendous discipline of the mind in order
to get detached from attachments to the past and anxieties
about the future. This can be done more easily if
one surrenders the past and the future at the altar
of devotion, while continuing to act in the present
as an offering to that Lord. This forms the essence
of surrender or sharaNAgati. The perceptual process
then becomes a matter of living with the world in
the present. The static that is behind the dynamic
present involves the conscious presence. In that understanding,
the Lord and the subject is understood as one and
the same. Then the object of perception, the means
of perception, and the knowledge of perception – all
the three (tripuTi) are recognized as either His vibhUti
or the glory of Consciousness itself.
In the perceptual process we reduce the existence
of that which is ‘one without a second’ into
a binary format. That is, there are only two things:
the subject I, a conscious entity who is present all
the time, and the changing objects of perception that
is the world. This reduces to the ‘I thought’ (aham
vRRitti) and the ‘this thought’ (idam
vRRitti). This latter involves ‘perception’ and ‘apperception’,
in that there is the knowledge that ‘this is
a pot’ and there is the cognition of that knowledge
in the sense that ‘I know this is a pot’.
There is the ‘knowledge of the known’ and
the ‘knowledge of the knower knowing the known’.
While the known keeps changing along with the changing ‘this’ or
idam, the knower subject always remains the same.
Coming back to the means of knowledge of ‘this’,
according to Advaita (which follows closely the Bhatta School
of mImAMsA), there are six means of knowledge. Perception itself
(pratyakSha) is direct and immediate. The other means of knowledge
are anumAna (inference), shabda (verbal testimony), upamAna
(simile), arthApatti (postulation), and anupalabdhi (non-apprehension).
In contrast to perception, these other pramANa-s are considered
to provide only indirect and mediate knowledge.
According to Advaita, shabda can be direct
and immediate under certain circumstances. This is
when the object of knowledge is immediately available,
and is being directly pointed out, as in the case
of the 10th man story. Indirect and mediate knowledge
rests on pratyakSha or direct perception for its validation.
Science relies mostly on anumAna or inferential knowledge,
but based upon perceptual data. Based on the effects
that we perceive, we deduce the cause for the effects,
where deductive and/or inductive reasoning is employed
to arrive at the knowledge. Here, the perceived data
or observations constitute direct knowledge, and the
deduced cause for the observed effects is indirect
knowledge. Thus, the inferential knowledge follows
the perceptual knowledge – anumAna means knowledge
that follows perceptual knowledge. In understanding
the inferential process, the naiyAyika-s have taken
the lead by providing a systematic study of inferential
knowledge. Indian philosophers closely follow the
naiyAyika-s in this regard, although they deviate
from them in some details. VP extensively discusses
these deviations from the Advaitic perspective.
The next part will discuss the format and constituent
parts of the basic inferential argument.
Proceed to the next essay.