by S N Sastri
According to vedAnta paribhAshA, perceptual knowledge (pratyakSha j~nAnam) arises when the Consciousness limited by the mental mode (vRRitti) coincides with the Consciousness limited by the object. The theory is that the mind goes out through the visual organ to the place of the object and takes the form of the object there. This is a vRRitti. The reflection of Consciousness in the vRRitti is known as the phala, which is the knowledge of the object.
The theory of the mind going out to the object and forming a vRRitti at the place where the object is located may look crude and unscientific, but Advaitasiddhi of Madhusudana Sarasvati shows how important this is for answering objections to one of the fundamental principles of advaita. This theory is not for explaining how vision takes place, which is a matter for science and the medical profession, but it is one of the main building blocks in the edifice of advaita.
According to advaita, the whole world is superimposed on Consciousness. As a corollary, it is held by advaita that every object is superimposed on the knowledge of that object. The reasoning for this conclusion is this: there must be some connection between an object and the knowledge of it, because without such a connection the knowledge cannot illumine the object. The object and its knowledge belong to two different levels of reality, the object being vyAvahArika, while the knowledge is pAramArthika.
Therefore, the only connection possible between them is by way of superimposition (adhyAsa). But here an objection was raised by the author of nyAyAmRita that there cannot be such a relationship because the vRRitti is in the mind within the body, while the object is outside. Superimposition requires that both the superimposed object and the substratum should be at the same place. This objection was refuted by the author of Advaitasiddhi on the ground that the vRRitti is also in the same place as the object and not elsewhere. If the theory of the advaitins had been that the vRRitti is formed in the mind, this objection could not have been met. Thus this theory is very important. This is discussed in Advaitasiddhi (chapter on dRig-dRishya-sambandha-bhangaH)
Prof. Hiriyanna, an eminent scholar in vedAnta, says in a footnote on page 346 of his book Essentials of Indian Philosophy: 'The theory of perception adopted by the advaita vedAnta is rather crude on the scientific side, though its metaphysical insight is valuable.'
It is, therefore, seen that every prakriyA has been put forth with some purpose, which may not be intelligible to us until we go deep into the matter.
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