The tree in the yard is really in the yard and
not in my head. What does this 'not in my head
mean'? More importantly what does Advaita have
to say about these issues?
The phrase 'not in my head' can be read to mean
that the physical tree is not in my head which,
on the face of it, is undeniable. Information
about the tree is in my head in the form of sensory
data or, if that is claiming too much, we
can allow that there are cerebral events, neuronal
activity and the like which are the sensorial
impact of the tree in the yard.
Some authors have claimed that this is all that
the tree amounts to and that the substantive
tree is an inference from the data. This may
be based on a theory about objects, which construes
them as the union of substantive and attributes
or matter and qualities etc. The jargon differs
but the thinking is the same. Berkeley refutes
this notion definitively by asking in effect,
'well if we never see this matter or substantive
and cannot know it directly how do we come to
be talking about it? Let us therefore cease
to talk about matter, as it is purely a speculation
which has no foundation'. Thus his thinking has
come to be called immaterialism.
Advaita takes the view that the reality of the
tree is present to the perceiver or that we perceive
it and not our perceptions as Shankara put it.
The tree can be present to us in its reality
as an object because the understanding of what
an object is differs radically from the substantive/attributes
or matter/qualities conjecture. What makes an
object capable of being perceived is its nature
as an upadhi of pure consciousness. This is its
true nature or the truth of its substratum.
It is this substratum which unifies the consciousness
of the subject with the object. Remember that
the brain is also an object which has also got
pure consciousness as its truth or the reality
of its substratum. The intellectual apprehension
of the tree or the judgement, 'this is a tree
before me', is of course different from the actual
“Therefore an object and its knowledge
differ” B.S.B. II.ii.28.
In short we do not perceive the substratum but
it is what makes perception possible. We can
distinguish between the intellectual apprehension,
the cerebral events and the tree but the substratum
of all these is one and the same. It is in this
ultimate sense that the object is before our
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