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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Negation or non existence abhava can thus


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style="text-align: justify;">and his followers, whose philosophy we shall deal with in the next chapter, hold that negation (_abhava_) appears as an intuition (_manam_) with reference to the object negated where there are no means of ordinary cognition (_prama@na_) leading to prove the existence (_satparicchedakam_) of that thing. They held that the notion "it is not existent" cannot be due to perception, for there is no contact here with sense and object. It is true indeed that when we turn our eyes (e.g. in the case of the perception of the non-existence of a jug) to the ground, we see both the ground and the non-existence of a jug, and when we shut them we can see neither the jug nor the ground, and therefore it could be urged that if we called the ground visually perceptible, we could say the same with regard to the non-existence of the jug. But even then since in the case of the perception of the jug there is sense-contact, which is absent in the other case, we could never say that both are grasped by perception. We see the ground and remember the jug (which is absent) and thus in the mind rises the notion of non-existence which has no reference at all to visual perception. A man may be sitting in a place where there were no tigers, but he might not then be aware of their non-existence at the time, since he did not think of them, but when later on he is asked in the evening if there were any tigers at the place where he was sitting in the morning, he then thinks and becomes
aware of the non-existence of tigers there in the morning, even without perceiving the place and without any operation of the memory of the non-existence of tigers. There is no question of there being any inference in the rise of our notion of non-existence, for it is not preceded by any notion of concomitance of any kind, and neither the ground nor the non-perception of the jug could be regarded as a reason (_li@nga_), for the non-perception of the jug is related to the jug and not to the negation of the jug, and no concomitance is known between the non-perception of the jug and its non-existence, and when the question of the concomitance of non-perception with non-existence is brought in, the same difficulty about the notion of non-existence (_abhava_) which was sought to be explained will recur again. Negation is therefore to be admitted as cognized by a separate and independent process of knowledge. Nyaya however says that the perception of non-existence (e.g. there is no jug here) is a unitary perception of one whole, just as any perception of positive existence (e.g.

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there is a jug on the ground) is. Both the knowledge of the ground as well as the knowledge of the non-existence of the jug arise there by the same kind of action of the visual organ, and there is therefore no reason why the knowledge of the ground should be said to be due to perception, whereas the knowledge of the negation of the jug on the ground should be said to be due to a separate process of knowledge. The non-existence of the jug is taken in the same act as the ground is perceived. The principle that in order to perceive a thing one should have sense-contact with it, applies only to positive existents and not to negation or non-existence. Negation or non-existence can be cognized even without any sense-contact. Non-existence is not a positive substance, and hence there cannot be any question here of sense-contact. It may be urged that if no sense-contact is required in apprehending negation, one could as well apprehend negation or non-existence of other places which are far away from him. To this the reply is that to apprehend negation it is necessary that the place where it exists must be perceived. We know a thing and its quality to be different, and yet the quality can only be taken in association with the thing and it is so in this case as well. We can apprehend non-existence only through the apprehension of its locus. In the case when non-existence is said to be apprehended later on it is really no later apprehension of non-existence but a memory of non-existence (e.g. of jug) perceived before along with the perception of the locus of non-existence (e.g. ground). Negation or non-existence (_abhava_) can thus, according to Nyaya, generate its cognition just as any positive existence can do. Negation is not mere negativity or mere vacuous absence, but is what generates the cognition "is not," as position (_bhava_) is what generates the cognition "it is."


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