Cognitive Error (Adhyasa) and Scriptures


Q6-1). What is the position of scriptures (shastras) with respect to adhyasa ?

Shri Shankaracharya says that the answers given so far are secondary in nature.  He says  the understanding of adhyasa is based shrutarthapatti.  The data (pramanam) based on the  Shruti is the highest pramanam for the adhyasa.

Q6-1).  What is shrutarthapatti ?

     Arthapatti means hypothesis – postulate to explain some observed facts. For example when I get up in the morning,  I see roads are wet.  Then I postulate that there was rain in the night even though I was not witness of raining. I did not have direct experience (pratyaksha) of raining. But I make reasonable postulate that it rained. This is called arthapatti. Even though it is a postulate, I do not have an iota of doubt in my postulate.

         If I had seen it is raining, I will not need a postulate to explain. It is pratyaksha pramanam – direct experience. I make an inference (anumana) based on the same. For example I see smoke on the mountain and infer that there is fire.
In arthapatti, I postulate based on observed facts. I did not see raining in the night since I was sleeping. However, on getting up I saw wet road. Hence postulate (arthapatti) is used. Both pratyaksha and arthapatti are valid knowledge.
In vedanta, no importance is given to mental speculation or imagination.

     Only valid knowledge is used. It is called shrutarthapatti.  Already we have seen that astika philosophers take knowledge from Shruti (Vedanta) as valid pramanam called Shruti pramanam. When the valid knowledge from Shruti if it is used for a postulate it is called shrutarthapatti pramanam.

Q6-3). How arthapatti pramanam is different from imagination or speculation ?

In Vedanta, there is no importance given to imagination or speculation.  Shrutarthapatti  Pramaman is taken for any discussion.  Philosophies based on imagination and speculations are not respected.

Q6-4) What are the objections to Adhyasa by different philosophers based Shruti pramanam ?

Objection 1 opponent ( Purvapakshin – Sankhya/nyaya philosophers): 

We accept eternal nature of Self (atma nityatvam) based on Shruti Pramanam. We also agree transmigration of soul, repeated births and deaths ( punarapi jananam, punarapi maranam).   How ever we disagree on the extent of adhyasam. Doer ship (kartrritvam) of atma  leads to karmic impressions resulting in repeated birth and death – transmigration. We also do not agree on enjoyership (bhoktratvam) of atma since there is suffering in life. We also do not accept the non-knower ship (pramata) of atma. Our objection is not the adhyasa but extent of adhyasa. 

Answer for objection 1 by Advaitin

Atma is non doer (akarta) and non enjoyer (abhokta) based on following Shruti Pramanams.

Shruti Pramanam #1

“The killer thinks  I am killing or killed thinks I am being killed then both of them do not know well” – ( hanta cen manyate…..  Kathopanishad 1.2.19).   Based on Shruti pramanam, we can derive following conclusions (shrutarthapatti)

As per Shruti, killer who thinks he is killing is not really killing.  In ignorance only somebody thinks he is killing. Killing is an action. Based on Shruti vakya,   atma  is  not killer and hence non-doer (akarta).

Person being killed is also wrong concept as per Shruti. Feeling of being killed is enjoyership (bhoktratvam). Hence atma is abhokta – non enjoyer.  Atma means “I”. I am not a doer or enjoyer is the conclusion based on Shruti.

Shruti Pramanam # 2

The SELF  does not create human misconception of bodily identity ( I am body), nor the identification with the frutive (karma) actions ( I am doer of karma) or connect actions (karma) with fruits of action (karma phala).   All these are actions of nature (prakriti).   {na kartrritvam, na karmani lokasya srujati prabhu…. Bhagavadgita 5.14}

As per above Smriti vakyam, atma is non doer ( akarta). Atma means “I”.  I am never a doer. Actions happen as per nature (prakriti).

Shruti Pramanam #3

When  embodied being (jiva)  controls his  mind, having renounced all actions, resides happily in the body ( city of nine gates) neither working nor causing the work to be done. { sarva karmani manasa….  Bhagavadgita 5.13}

Based on above Smriti vakya,  SELF is neither doer (akarta) nor enjoyer ( abhokta). It is the nature (prakriti) who is the doer.

Shruti Pramanam # 4

SELF (atma) is invisible (Not available to sense organs) ; Nobody can speak about atma ( incapable of being spoken of); Not graspable by mind/intellect; Without any distinctive marks ( attributes); unthinkable; nameless; the essence of knowledge ( prajnanam); that into which world is resolved; non-dual; peaceful; benign; is the fourth quarter ( chaturtha pada). He is the SELF to be known.

Based on above Shruti Vakyam,  SELF (atma) is not a knower.  Knower ship is adhyasa based on superimposition on atma. Atma is not a knower (pramata). Atma is of the nature of consciousness ( prajnanam).

Waking state knower jiva is called – Vishwa.  Dream state knower jiva is called taijasa.  Deep sleep knower jiva is called prajna.

Atma is of the nature of pure consciousness (prajnanam).  Knower ship of viswa, taijasa and prajna – waking, dreaming, deep sleep jiva is superimposed on Atma. This is adhyasa. Hence based on Shruti vakya,  Atma is not knower ( jnata/pramata) but chit – pure consciousness (prajnanam).

Hence as per Shruti – “I am knower” is adhyasa, but “I am consciousness” is not adhyasa but reality.

Shruti Pramanam # 5

SELF is changeless (nirvikaraha) as per Shruti.  Action involves change. Enjoyment of happiness/unhappiness involves changes. Knower ship involves changes. Based on Shruti Vakyam,  atma is non doer ( akarta), non enjoyer ( abhokta), non knower ( na-pramata).

      English word ending with “er” – knower, enjoyer, doer etc  involves change. Change indicates a process. Process belongs to nature (prakriti) not for the SELF ( atma).

          Shruti Pramanam # 6

         SELF is unattached ( asangaha) as per Shruti.  Sangha means attachment.

      For doer ship (kartrritvam), instrument (karanam) of action  is required – five organs of action. Instruments of action can be external (bahya karana)  or internal instruments ( antah karana).  Since atma is asangatha, it has no instruments of action.

       For enjoyership (bhoktratvam), instrument (bhoga karanam) is needed. Since SELF is asangatha, SELF has no instruments of enjoyment hence non-enjoyer (abhokta).

      For  knower ship ( pramata), instruments of knowing ( karana) is needed for connecting with known (pramanam).  Since SELF is not attached (asangaha), atma does not have instruments of knowledge.  Hence atma is non-knower (apramata).

          Shruti Pramanam #7

SELF is  unlimited ( aparichinnaha), infinite ( anantam), beginning less ( anadi).  Atma is ekaha (one).

Based on the Shruti pramanam,  ” I am body”  is adhyasa since it limits the SELF in space.  Birth and death is also adhyasa since there is limitation in terms of time. Multiplicity of atma ( anekatvam) is also false since it gives limitation in terms of space.

Q6-5).  What is anumana pramanam ? Please give example. 

     When there is a coexistence of two things, anumana pramanam is utilized. Two things coexisting is called vyapti.   For example, a cow is grazing grass.  Someone comes with a stick. Cow identifying with its body, starts running away. Similarly, when someone shows grass, cow starts moving towards the grass. Thus  moving towards the objects of desire and moving away from objects desire happens when there is vyapti.  Wherever there is transaction between two things happening, there is error ( adhyasa). In the above example identity of cow as body is adhyasa in the presence of grass or stick.

   This applies to human beings also. ” I am the body” adhyasa appears whenever there is transaction. Moving towards desirable objects is called pravritti and moving away is called nivritti.  Pravritti and nivritti happens due to adhyasa ” I am the body”.

This adhyasa is really cause of fear of death, desire for acquiring more in life. Shri Shankara says this adhyasa is dangerous. Adhyasa is the cause of identification with the body and karma and subsequent birth-death-birth cycle involving transmigration.

Q6-6). Who is the knower ?, Who is the doer ? 

       Knowing involves two entities – SELF (atma) which is conscious and non-self (anatma) which insentient. Atma is consciousness (chit).  Anatma is  existence (sat) aspect. Atma does not undergo any changes. Hence atma itself cannot involve in knowing process.   On the other hand anatma can undergo changes in the form of modifications (vrattis). For example  to know a flower,  anatma has to take the form of flower modification (vrattis).  Anatma has no sentience.

       Independently there is no knower in atma or anatma.  A knower is a combination of atma and anatma. Knower being a combination of atma and anatma is unreal. Chit aspect of atma and vritti of anatma is the cause of adhyasa of knower hood.

Situation is similar with respect to doer. Atma cannot do anything being changeless. Anatma undergoes modification in the form of action.  Thus doer ship is again a combination of atma and anatma. This is again mithya. This adhyasa leads to doer ship which results in good merit ( punyam) and bad merit (papa). Accumulation of papa and punyam results in transmigration and repeated cycle of birth and death.






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