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A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1 by Surendranath Dasgupta

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inference are but different modes of the transformations of the
anta@hkara@na reflecting the cit in the corresponding v@rttis. The
perception is thus nothing but the cit manifestation in the anta@hkara@na
v@rtti transformed into the form of an object with which it is
in contact. Perception in its objective aspect is the identity of
the cit underlying the object with the subject, and perception in
the subjective aspect is regarded as the identity of the subjective
cit with the objective cit. This identity of course means that
through the v@rtti the same reality subsisting in the object and
the subject is realized, whereas in inference the thing to be inferred,
being away from contact with anta@hkara@na, has apparently
a different reality from that manifested in the states of consciousness.
Thus perception is regarded as the mental state representing
the same identical reality in the object and the subject by
anta@hkara@na contact, and it is held that the knowledge produced
by words (e.g. this is the same Devadatta) referring identically
to the same thing which is seen (e.g. when I see Devadatta
before me another man says this is Devadatta, and the knowledge
produced by "this is Devadatta" though a verbal (_s'abda_)
knowledge is to be regarded as perception, for the anta@hkara@na
v@rtti is the same) is to be regarded as perception or pratyak@sa.
The content of these words (this is Devadatta) being the same
as the perception, and there being no new relationing knowledge as
represented in the proposition "this is Devadatta" involving the
unity of two terms "this" and "Devadatta" with a copula, but
only the indication of one whole as Devadatta under visual perception
already experienced, the knowledge proceeding from
"this is Devadatta" is regarded as an example of nirvikalpa
knowledge. So on the occasion of the rise of Brahma-consciousness
when the preceptor instructs "thou art Brahman" the
knowledge proceeding from the sentence is not savikalpa, for

484

though grammatically there are two ideas and a copula, yet
from the point of view of intrinsic significance (_tatparya_) one
identical reality only is indicated. Vedanta does not distinguish
nirvikalpa and savikalpa in visual perception, but only in s'abda
perception as in cases referred to above. In all such cases the
condition for nirvikalpa is that the notion conveyed by the
sentence should be one whole or one identical reality, whereas
in savikalpa perception we have a combination of different
ideas as in the sentence, "the king's man is coming" (_rajapuru@sa
agacchati_). Here no identical reality is signified, but what is
signified is the combination of two or three different concepts [Footnote
ref 1].

It is not out of place to mention in this connection that
Vedanta admits all the six prama@nas of Kumarila and considers
like Mima@msa that all knowledge is self-valid (_svat@ah-prama@na_).
But prama has not the same meaning in Vedanta
as in Mima@msa. There as we remember prama meant the
knowledge which goaded one to practical action and as such
all knowledge was prama, until practical experience showed the
course of action in accordance with which it was found to be
contradicted. In Vedanta however there is no reference to action,
but prama means only uncontradicted cognition. To the definition
of self-validity as given by Mima@msa Vedanta adds another
objective qualification, that such knowledge can have svata@h-prama@nya
as is not vitiated by the presence of any do@sa (cause
of error, such as defect of senses or the like). Vedanta of course
does not think like Nyaya that positive conditions (e.g. correspondence,
etc.) are necessary for the validity of knowledge,
nor does it divest knowledge of all qualifications like the
Mima@msists, for whom all knowledge is self-valid as such. It
adopts a middle course and holds that absence of do@sa is a necessary
condition for the self-validity of knowledge. It is clear that
this is a compromise, for whenever an external condition has to
be admitted, the knowledge cannot be regarded as self-valid,
but Vedanta says that as it requires only a negative condition
for the absence of do@sa, the objection does not apply to it, and it
holds that if it depended on the presence of any positive condition
for proving the validity of knowledge like the Nyaya,
then only its theory of self-validity would have been damaged.
But since it wants only a negative condition, no blame can be

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Vedantaparibha@sa_ and _S'ikhama@ni._]

485

attributed to its theory of self-validity. Vedanta was bound to
follow this slippery middle course, for it could not say that the
pure cit reflected in consciousness could require anything else
for establishing its validity, nor could it say that all phenomenal
forms of knowledge were also all valid, for then the world-appearance
would come to be valid; so it held that knowledge
could be regarded as valid only when there was no do@sa
present; thus from the absolute point of view all world-knowledge
was false and had no validity, because there was the
avidya-do@sa, and in the ordinary sphere also that knowledge was
valid in which there was no do@sa. Validity (prama@nya) with
Mima@msa meant the capacity that knowledge has to goad us to
practical action in accordance with it, but with Vedanta it meant
correctness to facts and want of contradiction. The absence of
do@sa being guaranteed there is nothing which can vitiate the
correctness of knowledge [Footnote ref 1].

Vedanta Theory of Illusion.

We have already seen that the Mima@msists had asserted that
all knowledge was true simply because it was knowledge (_yathartha@h
sarve vivadaspadibhuta@h pratyaya@h pratyayatvat_). Even
illusions were explained by them as being non-perception of the
distinction between the thing perceived (e.g. the conch-shell), and
the thing remembered (e.g. silver). But Vedanta objects to this,
and asks how there can be non-distinction between a thing which
is clearly perceived and a thing which is remembered? If it is
said that it is merely a non-perception of the non-association (i.e.
non-perception of the fact that this is not connected with silver),
then also it cannot be, for then it is on either side mere negation,
and negation with Mima@msa is nothing but the bare presence of the
locus of negation (e.g. negation of jug on the ground is nothing but
the bare presence of the ground), or in other words non-perception
of the non-association of "silver" and "this" means barely
and merely the "silver" and "this." Even admitting for argument's
sake that the distinction between two things or two ideas
is not perceived, yet merely from such a negative aspect no one
could be tempted to move forward to action (such as stooping
down to pick up a piece of illusory silver). It is positive

______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Vedantaparibha@sa, S'ikhama@ni, Ma@niprabha_ and Citsukha
on svata@hprama@nya.]

486

conviction or perception that can lead a man to actual practical
movement. If again it is said that it is the general and imperfect
perception of a thing (which has not been properly differentiated
and comprehended) before me, which by the memory of silver
appears to be like true silver before me and this generates the
movement for picking it up, then this also is objectionable. For
the appearance of the similarity with real silver cannot lead us
to behave with the thing before me as if it were real silver. Thus
I may perceive that gavaya (wild ox) is similar to cow, but despite
this similarity I am not tempted to behave with the gavaya as
if it were a cow. Thus in whatever way the Mima@msa position
may be defined it fails [Footnote ref l]. Vedanta thinks that the illusion
is not merely subjective, but that there is actually a phenomenon
of illusion as there are phenomena of actual external objects;
the difference in the two cases consists in this, that the illusion
is generated by the do@sa or defect of the senses etc., whereas the
phenomena of external objects are not due to such specific do@sas.
The process of illusory perception in Vedanta may be described
thus. First by the contact of the senses vitiated by do@sas a
mental state as "thisness" with reference to the thing before me
is generated; then in the thing as "this" and in the mental state
of the form of that "this" the cit is reflected. Then the avidya
(nescience) associated with the cit is disturbed by the presence
of the do@sa, and this disturbance along with the impression of
silver remembered through similarity is transformed into the
appearance of silver. There is thus an objective illusory silver
appearance, as well as a similar transformation of the mental state
generated by its contact with the illusory silver. These two
transformations, the silver state of the mind and external phenomenal
illusory silver state, are manifested by the perceiving consciousness
(_sak@sicaitanya_). There are thus here two phenomenal transformations,
one in the avidya states forming the illusory objective silver
phenomenon, and another in the anta@hkara@na-v@rtti or mind state.
But in spite of there being two distinct and separate phenomena,
their object being the same as the "this" in perception, we have
one knowledge of illusion. The special feature of this theory of
illusion is that an indefinable (_anirvacaniya-khyati_) illusory silver
is created in every case where an illusory perception of silver
occurs. There are three orders of reality in Vedanta, namely the

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Vivara@na-prameya-sa@mgraha_ and _Nyayamakaranda_ on
akhyati refutation.]

487

_paramarthika_ or absolute, _vyavaharika_ or practical ordinary
experience, and _pratibhasika,_ illusory. The first one represents
the absolute truth; the other two are false impressions due
to do@sa. The difference between vyavaharika and pratibhasika
is that the do@sa of the vyavaharika perception is neither discovered
nor removed until salvation, whereas the do@sa of the
pratibhasika reality which occurs in many extraneous forms (such
as defect of the senses, sleep, etc.) is perceived in the world of
our ordinary experience, and thus the pratibhasika experience
lasts for a much shorter period than the vyavaharika. But just
as the vyavaharika world is regarded as phenomenal modifications
of the ajnana, as apart from our subjective experience and
even before it, so the illusion (e.g. of silver in the conch-shell) is
also regarded as a modification of avidya, an undefinable creation
of the object of illusion, by the agency of the do@sa. Thus in the
case of the illusion of silver in the conch-shell, indefinable silver
is created by the do@sa in association with the senses, which is
called the creation of an indefinable (_anirvacaniya_) silver of illusion.
Here the cit underlying the conch-shell remains the same
but the avidya of anta@hkara@na suffers modifications (_pari@nama_)
on account of do@sa, and thus gives rise to the illusory creation.
The illusory silver is thus _vivartta_ (appearance) from the point
of view of the cit and pari@nama from the point of view of
avidya, for the difference between vivartta and pari@nama is, that
in the former the transformations have a different reality from
the cause (cit is different from the appearance imposed on it),
while in the latter case the transformations have the same reality
as the transforming entity (appearance of silver has the same
stuff as the avidya whose transformations it is). But now a
difficulty arises that if the illusory perception of silver is due to
a coalescing of the cit underlying the anta@hkara@na-v@rtti as modified
by do@sa and the object--cit as underlying the "this" before
me (in the illusion of "this is silver"), then I ought to have the
experience that "I am silver" like "I am happy" and not that
"this is silver"; the answer is, that as the coalescing takes place
in connection with my previous notion as "this," the form of
the knowledge also is "this is silver," whereas in the notion
"I am happy," the notion of happiness takes place in connection
with a previous v@rtti of "I." Thus though the coalescing
of the two "cits" is the same in both cases, yet in one case the

488

knowledge takes the form of "I am," and in another as "this is"
according as the previous impression is "I" or "this." In dreams
also the dream perceptions are the same as the illusory perception
of silver in the conch-shell. There the illusory creations are
generated through the defects of sleep, and these creations are
imposed upon the cit. The dream experiences cannot be regarded
merely as memory-products, for the perception in dream is in the
form that "I see that I ride in the air on chariots, etc." and not
that "I remember the chariots." In the dream state all the senses
are inactive, and therefore there is no separate objective cit there,
but the whole dream experience with all characteristics of space,
time, objects, etc. is imposed upon the cit. The objection that
since the imposition is on the pure cit the imposition ought to
last even in waking stages, and that the dream experiences ought
to continue even in waking life, does not hold; for in the waking
stages the anta@hkara@na is being constantly transformed into different
states on the expiry of the defects of sleep, etc., which were
causing the dream cognitions. This is called _niv@rtti_ (negation)
as distinguished from _badha_ (cessation). The illusory creation of
dream experiences may still be there on the pure cit, but these
cannot be experienced any longer, for there being no do@sa of
sleep the anta@hkara@na is active and suffering modifications in
accordance with the objects presented before us. This is what is
called niv@rtti, for though the illusion is there I cannot experience
it, whereas badha or cessation occurs when the illusory creation
ceases, as when on finding out the real nature of the conch-shell
the illusion of silver ceases, and we feel that this is not silver, this
was not and will not be silver. When the conch-shell is perceived
as silver, the silver is felt as a reality, but this feeling of reality
was not an illusory creation, though the silver was an objective
illusory creation; for the reality in the s'ukti (conch-shell) is
transferred and felt as belonging to the illusion of silver imposed upon
it. Here we see that the illusion of silver has two different kinds
of illusion comprehended in it. One is the creation of an indefinable
silver (_anirvacaniya-rajatotpatti_) and the other is the attribution
of the reality belonging to the conch-shell to the illusory
silver imposed upon it, by which we feel at the time of the illusion
that it is a reality. This is no doubt the _anyathakhyati_
form of illusion as advocated by Nyaya. Vedanta admits that
when two things (e.g. red flower and crystal) are both present

489

before my senses, and I attribute the quality of one to the other
by illusion (e.g. the illusion that the crystal is red), then the illusion
is of the form of anyathakhyati; but if one of the things is not
present before my senses and the other is, then the illusion is not
of the anyathakhyati type, but of the anirvacaniyakhyati type.
Vedanta could not avoid the former type of illusion, for it believed
that all appearance of reality in the world-appearance
was really derived from the reality of Brahman, which was self-luminous
in all our experiences. The world appearance is an
illusory creation, but the sense of reality that it carries with it
is a misattribution (_anyathakhyati_) of the characteristic of the
Brahman to it, for Brahman alone is the true and the real, which
manifests itself as the reality of all our illusory world-experience,
just as it is the reality of s'ukti that gives to the appearance of
silver its reality.

Vedanta Ethics and Vedanta Emancipation.

Vedanta says that when a duly qualified man takes to the
study of Vedanta and is instructed by the preceptor--"Thou
art that (Brahman)," he attains the emancipating knowledge,
and the world-appearance becomes for him false and illusory.
The qualifications necessary for the study of Vedanta are (1)
that the person having studied all the Vedas with the proper
accessories, such as grammar, lexicon etc. is in full possession of
the knowledge of the Vedas, (2) that either in this life or in another,
he must have performed only the obligatory Vedic duties (such
as daily prayer, etc. called _nitya-karma_) and occasionally obligatory
duty (such as the birth ceremony at the birth of a son,
called _naimittika-karma_) and must have avoided all actions for
the fulfilment of selfish desires (_kamya-karmas_, such as the
performance of sacrifices for going to Heaven) and all prohibited
actions (e.g. murder, etc. _ni@siddha-karma_) in such a
way that his mind is purged of all good and bad actions (no
karma is generated by the _nitya_ and _naimittika-karma_, and as
he has not performed the _kamya_ and prohibited karmas, he has
acquired no new karma). When he has thus properly purified
his mind and is in possession of the four virtues or means of
fitting the mind for Vedanta instruction (called _sadhana_) he
can regard himself as properly qualified for the Vedanta instruction.
These virtues are (1) knowledge of what is eternal

490

and what is transient, (2) disinclination to enjoyments of this
life and of the heavenly life after death, (3) extreme distaste for
all enjoyments, and anxiety for attaining the means of right knowledge,
(4) control over the senses by which these are restrained
from everything but that which aids the attainment of right
knowledge (_dama_), (a) having restrained them, the attainment
of such power that these senses may not again be tempted towards
worldly enjoyments (_uparati_), (b) power of bearing extremes
of heat, cold, etc., (c) employment of mind towards the attainment
of right knowledge, (d) faith in the instructor and
Upani@sads; (5) strong desire to attain salvation. A man possessing
the above qualities should try to understand correctly
the true purport of the Upani@sads (called _s'rava@na_), and by
arguments in favour of the purport of the Upani@sads to
strengthen his conviction as stated in the Upani@sads (called
_manana_) and then by _nididhyasana_ (meditation) which includes
all the Yoga processes of concentration, try to realize the truth
as one. Vedanta therefore in ethics covers the ground of
Yoga; but while for Yoga emancipation proceeds from understanding
the difference between puru@sa and prak@rti, with Vedanta
salvation comes by the dawn of right knowledge that Brahman
alone is the true reality, his own self [Footnote ref 1]. Mima@msa asserts
that the Vedas do not declare the knowledge of one Brahman to be the
supreme goal, but holds that all persons should act in accordance
with the Vedic injunctions for the attainment of good
and the removal of evil. But Vedanta holds that though the
purport of the earlier Vedas is as Mima@msa has it, yet this
is meant only for ordinary people, whereas for the elect the
goal is clearly as the Upani@sads indicate it, namely the attainment
of the highest knowledge. The performance of Vedic
duties is intended only for ordinary men, but yet it was
believed by many (e.g. Vacaspati Mis'ra and his followers) that
due performance of Vedic duties helped a man to acquire a
great keenness for the attainment of right knowledge; others
believed (e.g. Prakas'atma and his followers) that it served to
bring about suitable opportunities by securing good preceptors,
etc. and to remove many obstacles from the way so that it became
easier for a person to attain the desired right knowledge.
In the acquirement of ordinary knowledge the ajnanas removed

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Vedantasara_ and _Advaitabrahmasiddhi.]

491

are only smaller states of ajnana, whereas when the
Brahma-knowledge dawns the ajnana as a whole is removed.
Brahma-knowledge at the stage of its first rise is itself also a
state of knowledge, but such is its special strength that when
this knowledge once dawns, even the state of knowledge which
at first reflects it (and which being a state is itself ajnana
modification) is destroyed by it. The state itself being destroyed,
only the pure infinite and unlimited Brahman shines forth in its
own true light. Thus it is said that just as fire riding on a piece
of wood would burn the whole city and after that would burn
the very same wood, so in the last state of mind the Brahma-knowledge
would destroy all the illusory world-appearance and
at last destroy even that final state [Footnote ref l].

The mukti stage is one in which the pure light of Brahman
as the identity of pure intelligence, being and complete bliss
shines forth in its unique glory, and all the rest vanishes as
illusory nothing. As all being of the world-appearance is but
limited manifestations of that one being, so all pleasures also
are but limited manifestations of that supreme bliss, a taste
of which we all can get in deep dreamless sleep. The being
of Brahman however is not an abstraction from all existent
beings as the _satta_ (being as class notion) of the naiyayika, but
the concrete, the real, which in its aspect as pure consciousness
and pure bliss is always identical with itself. Being (_sat_) is pure
bliss and pure consciousness. What becomes of the avidya during
mukti (emancipation) is as difficult for one to answer as the
question, how the avidya came forth and stayed during the world-appearance.
It is best to remember that the category of the
indefinite avidya is indefinite as regards its origin, manifestation
and destruction. Vedanta however believes that even when the
true knowledge has once been attained, the body may last for a
while, if the individual's previously ripened karmas demand it.
Thus the emancipated person may walk about and behave like
an ordinary sage, but yet he is emancipated and can no longer
acquire any new karma. As soon as the fruits due to his ripe
karmas are enjoyed and exhausted, the sage loses his body and
there will never be any other birth for him, for the dawn of
perfect knowledge has burnt up for him all budding karmas of
beginningless previous lives, and he is no longer subject to any

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1:_Siddhantales'a_.]

492

of the illusions subjective or objective which could make any
knowledge, action, or feeling possible for him. Such a man is
called _jivanmukta_, i.e. emancipated while living. For him all
world-appearance has ceased. He is the one light burning alone
in himself where everything else has vanished for ever from the
stage [Footnote ref 1].

Vedanta and other Indian Systems.

Vedanta is distinctly antagonistic to Nyaya, and most of
its powerful dialectic criticism is generally directed against it.
S'a@nkara himself had begun it by showing contradictions and
inconsistencies in many of the Nyaya conceptions, such as the
theory of causation, conception of the atom, the relation of samavaya,
the conception of jati, etc [Footnote ref 2]. His followers carried it to
still greater lengths as is fully demonstrated by the labours of
S'rihar@sa, Citsukha, Madhusudana, etc. It was opposed to Mima@msa so
far as this admitted the Nyaya-Vais'e@sika categories, but agreed
with it generally as regards the prama@nas of anumana, upamiti,
arthapatti, s'abda, and anupalabdhi. It also found a great supporter
in Mima@msa with its doctrine of the self-validity and self-manifesting
power of knowledge. But it differed from Mima@msa
in the field of practical duties and entered into many elaborate
discussions to prove that the duties of the Vedas referred only to
ordinary men, whereas men of higher order had no Vedic duties
to perform but were to rise above them and attain the highest
knowledge, and that a man should perform the Vedic duties
only so long as he was not fit for Vedanta instruction and
studies.

With Sa@mkhya and Yoga the relation of Vedanta seems to
be very close. We have already seen that Vedanta had accepted
all the special means of self-purification, meditation, etc., that
were advocated by Yoga. The main difference between Vedanta
and Sa@mkhya was this that Sa@mkhya believed, that the stuff of
which the world consisted was a reality side by side with the
puru@sas. In later times Vedanta had compromised so far with
Sa@mkhya that it also sometimes described maya as being made
up of sattva, rajas, and tamas. Vedanta also held that according
to these three characteristics were formed diverse modifications

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See _Pancadas'i_.]

[Footnote 2: See S'a@nkara's refutation of Nyaya, _S'a@nkara-bha@sya_, II.
ii.]

493

of the maya. Thus Is'vara is believed to possess a mind of pure
sattva alone. But sattva, rajas and tamas were accepted in
Vedanta in the sense of tendencies and not as reals as Sa@mkhya
held it. Moreover, in spite of all modifications that maya was
believed to pass through as the stuff of the world-appearance, it
was indefinable and indefinite, and in its nature different from
what we understand as positive or negative. It was an unsubstantial
nothing, a magic entity which had its being only so long
as it appeared. Prak@rti also was indefinable or rather undemonstrable
as regards its own essential nature apart from its manifestation,
but even then it was believed to be a combination of
positive reals. It was undefinable because so long as the reals
composing it did not combine, no demonstrable qualities belonged
to it with which it could be defined. Maya however was undemonstrable,
indefinite, and indefinable in all forms; it was a
separate category of the indefinite. Sa@mkhya believed in the
personal individuality of souls, while for Vedanta there was only
one soul or self, which appeared as many by virtue of the maya
transformations. There was an adhyasa or illusion in Sa@mkhya
as well as in Vedanta; but in the former the illusion was due
to a mere non-distinction between prak@rti and puru@sa or mere
misattribution of characters or identities, but in Vedanta there
was not only misattribution, but a false and altogether indefinable
creation. Causation with Sa@mkhya meant real transformation,
but with Vedanta all transformation was mere appearance.
Though there were so many differences, it is however easy to
see that probably at the time of the origin of the two systems
during the Upani@sad period each was built up from very similar
ideas which differed only in tendencies that gradually manifested
themselves into the present divergences of the two systems.
Though S'a@nkara laboured hard to prove that the Sa@mkhya
view could not be found in the Upani@sads, we can hardly be
convinced by his interpretations and arguments. The more
he argues, the more we are led to suspect that the Sa@mkhya
thought had its origin in the Upani@sads. Sa'a@nkara and his
followers borrowed much of their dialectic form of criticism from
the Buddhists. His Brahman was very much like the s'unya
of Nagarjuna. It is difficult indeed to distinguish between
pure being and pure non-being as a category. The debts of
S`a@nkara to the self-luminosity of the Vijnanavada Buddhism

494

can hardly be overestimated. There seems to be much truth
in the accusations against S'a@nkara by Vijnana Bhik@su and
others that he was a hidden Buddhist himself. I am led to
think that S'a@nkara's philosophy is largely a compound of
Vijnanavada and S'unyavada Buddhism with the Upani@sad
notion of the permanence of self superadded.

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