Q.515 Mechanism of chidAbhAsa

Q: There seems to be two ways to understand the mechanism of chidābhāsa:

1. Light (brahman) is reflected off the mind and illuminates objects so they can be seen and experienced.

2. Light reflects off objects and is refracted through the prism of the mind.

I’m guessing that 1 is preferred, because 2 assumes that there are objects for the light (brahman) to reflect off, whereas 1 implies that the objects are only ‘there’ because of the mind?

A: Each of the ‘explanations’ in Advaita is really just to move you a bit closer to the realization that there is only Brahman (and, consequently, you are That). You shouldn’t attempt to ‘join’ them together and try to make one ‘explanation’ ‘explain’ another.

As far as the ‘mechanism’ of perception is concerned, you certainly should not attempt to join an Advaita understanding with a scientific one! According to Advaita, Consciousness itself forms a vRRitti at the location of the object instantaneously (since Consciousness is everywhere). The speed of light, normally considered an inviolable restriction regarding visual perception, just isn’t relevant. Read Chittaranjan Naik’s book ‘Natural Realism and Contact Theory of Perception: Indian Philosophy’s Challenge to Contemporary Paradigms of Knowledge’ if you are interested. (I wrote a review of it at Amazon also.) Buy from Amazon US ; Buy from Amazon UK

Shankara does reference vācārambhaṇa shruti from Chandogya regarding our imposing name and form on Brahman but he also talks about Ishvara creating the universe. You really need to be aware of both and use whichever is appropriate! It is certainly true to say that, without the mind, you would not be aware of anything!

12 thoughts on “Q.515 Mechanism of chidAbhAsa

  1. The mind does “reflect” as well as “refract” the illumination of Consciousness.

    In addition, the mind (in its four functional aspects together with the sensory organs) also “projects” the objects as though they are external to itself.

    Further it may “aberrate” them too when it perceives them! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    For an example of how the mind “projects,” please see the Fig. 1 at: https://www.advaita-vision.org/the-i-am-realized-delusion-3/

    The classic example that Shankara often gives in his commentaries, for the aberration is the appearance of double moons because of defective eyesight (+ interpretation of the mind) or adhyAsa (superimposition).

    I agree fully with what Dennis writes in the first para of his answer.

    regards,

    • Thanks for responding, Ramesam. 🙂

      Ramesam: After all, the so-called mind (or generally the “internal organ”) is an “object” only in this metaphor used in Advaita.

      Aha, good point! So either way, reflection or refraction, there is an ‘object’ off of which the light (brahman) reflects. ‘Object’ in quotes to indicate mithya nature.

      Ramesam:
      Any mixing and matching of the metaphors may be okay on the condition that “the resultant product” of mix-and-match CONFOMRS to the scriptural teaching of the Advaitic message.

      Could a misinterpretation of the scriptures lead to realization? Imagine: You get lost in the woods, wander randomly, and eventually find your way home.

      Thanks,
      Rick

  2. > Dennis: 1. Each of the ‘explanations’ in Advaita is really just to move you a bit closer to the realization that there is only Brahman (and, consequently, you are That). You shouldn’t attempt to ‘join’ them together and try to make one ‘explanation’ ‘explain’ another. 2. As far as the ‘mechanism’ of perception is concerned, you certainly should not attempt to join an Advaita understanding with a scientific one!

    Hi Dennis. 🙂 What if 1 (joining Advaitin explanations) and/or 2 (joining a non-Advaita and Advaita explanation) helps you move a bit closer to realization? If it’s all stories, why not combine them if that suits your learning style?

  3. > Q: 2. Light reflects off objects and is refracted through the prism of the mind.
    … 2 assumes that there are objects for the light (brahman) to reflect off.

    Ramesam, hi. 🙂 Do you agree that the refraction metaphor is problematic because it assumes there are objects for the light to reflect off of?

  4. Hi Rick,

    Regarding point 1: Yes, you are right. Sureshvara says somewhere that it doesn’t matter where we get our understanding from if it moves us closer to realization. But there are good reasons for being very careful when it comes to science for the reasons already mentioned. The phrase ‘one step forward and two steps back’ comes to mind! Or ‘blind leading the blind’…

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • Yes to your reservations! “Anyone who represents themself in court has a fool for a lawyer.” Especially if they are an amateur relying on intuition and good intentions. And yet some of us are just natural born fools. 😉

  5. “Do you agree that the refraction metaphor is problematic because it assumes there are objects for the light to reflect off of?”

    Hi Rick,
    Thanks for tagging me.
    First, let me make it clear that “Reflection” and “Refraction” are two distinct physical processes.

    Both the processes happen when a beam of light impinges on an object. In addition, part of the incident light may also be ‘absorbed.’

    As the light meets a different ‘medium,’ in its propagation, typically a part of it bounces back into the first medium. This is called as “Reflection.” A part of it continues to pass into the second medium, but with the direction of the movement of the beam slightly bent (due to the difference in the density of the two media). This bending is known as Refraction.

    Now coming to your question, yes, Sir. I agree that an ‘object’ (at least some difference in the medium) has to exist in the path of the light for either reflection or refraction to take place. However, I don’t see it as “problematic” as you seem to assume! 🙂

    After all, the so-called mind (or generally the “internal organ”) is an “object” only in this metaphor used in Advaita.

    With reference to Point # 1 of yours, two quick observations.
    Any mixing and matching of the metaphors may be okay on the condition that “the resultant product” of mix-and-match CONFOMRS to the scriptural teaching of the Advaitic message.

    The second point I would like to make is, I am afraid what Dennis portrayed as the Advaita mechanism of perception, needs a small correction when he says that “According to Advaita, Consciousness itself forms a vRRitti at the location of the object …” Consciousness merely “illuminates” a vRitti and Itself does not become or form a vRitti. It is the mind that is the vRitti.

    Finally, my personal opinion, if one cares. The author’s book that Dennis recommends comes out to me to be more a confused presentation trying to be bombastic rather than having any clarity in mind! Sorry.

    regards,

  6. “Could a misinterpretation of the scriptures lead to realization? Imagine: You get lost in the woods, wander randomly, and eventually find your way home.”

    Interesting observation, Rick! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    There are many such illustrative stories in the Puranas where a character gets totally lost in his/her travails and tribulations but ultimately “realizes” what one truly is. But usually, 99.99% of the time, there is always some wayfarer, some benevolent helping hand, or some unexpected turn of events or guidance coming from somewhere, in every one of such stories. I do not know if it is purposefully built into like that in those stories by the author (whoever-it-may-be) or it is based on real-life situations.

    In fact, as you may recollect, such a story is narrated at 6.14.2, chAndogya too. Here also, a kind-hearted man helps the Gandharva, who was lost directionlessly in a forest, to find his way home.

    We have a very interesting story of the King Vipascit who splits himself into four Vipascits each gone to explore the four cardinal directions. In this story too, the God of Fire ultimately helps him to reach his home.

    That benevolent helper in each case is comparable to the scripture or a ‘shrotriya’ teacher. So, ultimately, the moral of the story is that unless there is help from ‘shabda pramANa,’ triggered by one’s own karmaphala, one may not be able to reach home (i.e. tread on the nivRitti mArga).

    After all, blind open-ended exploration is continuous unfoldment of the world and implosion is the reversal of that or putting a stop to the blind wanderings.

    regards,

    • > “So, ultimately, the moral of the story is that unless there is help from ‘shabda pramANa,’ triggered by one’s own karmaphala, one may not be able to reach home (i.e. tread on the nivRitti mArga).”

      This makes sense. ‘Attaining’ enlightenment without shabda pramANa from the right teacher and/or right scripture is, I’d guess, quite rare. Your karma would need to be ripe for realization, right?

  7. Hi Rick,

    “Could a misinterpretation of the scriptures lead to realization? Imagine: You get lost in the woods, wander randomly, and eventually find your way home.”

    It must be the case that misinterpretation can lead to realization. After all, look at all of the monks in the Ramakrishna/Vivekananda tradition. Many of them must have had incorrect guidance yet still realized. Even without ANY guidance, it seems to be possible for such as Ramana Maharshi.

    You have to remember that ALL teaching is mithyA. Reality cannot be spoken of.

    In fact, ‘incorrect’ is not the right word – if it worked, it was correct for them. By ‘incorrect’, I mean not in strict accordance with shruti and Shankara.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • “ALL teaching is mithyA. Reality cannot be spoken of.”

      Yes. I understand this intellectually, though in the heat of the real-world moment I forget it and confuse mithya for reality, consciously or unconsciously.

      For years my bugaboo with Advaita has been brahman. I’ve tried to fathom it from many different angles, there’s a whole longish thread on my quest to grok brahman here in this blog. I’m beginning to wonder if my ‘brahman troubles’ are largely due to my mind’s attempt to “speak/think of the unspeakable/unthinkable?”

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