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A new Advaita forum has been opened exclusively to discuss Advaita Vedanta in terms of questions and answers. The purpose of the discussion is to arrive at clear understanding of Advaita using scriptures as pramaaNa or means of knowledge.  From time to time questions will be raised and answered to stimulate the discussion. In addition, some on going talks will be posted for listening and for contemplation.

The forum is meant for discussion on Advaita as the very name indicates. Questions on dvaita and vishiShTaadvaita are discouraged since there are separate forums for this. Answers and clarifications are provided based on my knowledge of the scriptures, and it is up to discusser to accept or reject them; but the discussions are not meant for establishing who is right.


Hari Om!

Sadananda

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: Introduction  ( 7109 )
Dr. Sadananda
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« : February 17, 2010, 11:06:18 PM »

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.
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