adhyAsa (part 5)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 4 of the series

Proofs for adhyAsa  
There are two shruti-based pramANa-s for adhyAsa , the first is ‘postulated’ and the second ‘inferred’.

The first takes an observed fact – for example I wake up one morning and find the road outside is flooded – and postulates an explanation for this – e.g. heavy rain occurred whilst I slept. Since I slept soundly, I have no direct knowledge of any rain but, without such a supposition, I have no reasonable way to explain the observed phenomenon. Other ‘unreasonable’ explanations may be put forward but the one suggested is the most plausible to the rational mind. In order to justify an improbable explanation, the more plausible must first be discredited. Since the observed fact can only be explained in this way, the explanation becomes a pramANa or valid means of knowledge. This pramANa is ‘perception-based’. as opposed to ‘shruti-based’. Shankara’s concept of adhyAsa is in fact a shruti-based ‘postulate’ since there is no mention of the subject in the veda-s themselves and it is in this way that it becomes a valid knowledge in its own right.

Just as this principle can be used to explain the flooded streets, shruti-based postulates can be used to explain that the ideas that we are mortal, doers and enjoyers are all due to error. For example, the kaThopaniShad (II.19) says ‘If the slayer thinks that he slays or if the slain thinks that he is slain, both of these know not. For It (the Self) neither slays nor is It slain.’ Also the gItA (V. 8) tells us that one who knows the truth understands that we do not act. We are not ‘doers’ or ‘killers’ or ‘killed’. Therefore, any statement such as ‘I am a doer’ or ‘I am an enjoyer’ must be an error, from shruti (and smR^iti) based postulate. Continue reading

Is the universe conscious? 

Can you disprove the fact that the universe is conscious?

[“Universe” is defined as “all existing matter and space considered as a whole”.

There are conscious beings within this universe.

They are part of the universe.

Therefore, the universe is conscious (with its consciousness manifesting in specific places such as the brain of a conscious being).]


LW. No. You are essentially asking whether or not we can disprove the existence of a pantheistic god.

We can not disprove that possibility. However; we can take a look at the logic that underlies your supposition. Continue reading

Q. 388 – Proof of Methodology

Q: I read an article of yours in which you said that traditional Advaita is a “proven methodology.” You also say that it is impossible to tell if another person is enlightened. But if you can’t tell if someone is enlightened as a result of practicing Advaita, how can you say that Advaita is a “proven methodology”? What constitutes “proof”?

Responses from Martin and Dennis

A (Martin): There are two parts to the question: 1) what constitutes proof in the context of Advaita Vedanta; 2) What does the questioner mean by enlightenment.

1) Is a proof here the proficiency in discussing/remembering/debating on topics of this tradition shown by one who has followed it for x number of years?

Answer: That can hardly be a proof. Whether parrot-like or not, ability in this regard may show, at best, a degree of intellectual understanding in the areas discussed as well as, possibly, a good memory and lexical ability. A real proof would consist in bringing about a complete change in outlook on life, meaning an inner transformation in the way the person sees the world and reacts to it. Does he/she see themselves as a doer? This may not be evident to anyone other the one undergoing the change. Continue reading