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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

If negation meant only a general negation


the fact that it is an imagination

or rather imposition, does not necessarily mean that it is merely a temporary notion produced by the defects; for it could have been said to be a temporary product of the moment if the ground as well as the illusory creation associated with it came into being for the moment, but this is not the case here, as the cit, the ground of illusion, is ever-present and the ajnana therefore being ever associated with it is also beginningless. The ajnana is the indefinite which is veiling everything, and as such is different from the definite or the positive and the negative. Though it is beginningless yet it can be removed by knowledge, for to have a beginning or not to have it does not in any way determine whether the thing is subject to dissolution or not for the dissolution of a thing depends upon the presence of the thing which can cause it; and it is a fact that when knowledge comes the illusion is destroyed; it does not matter whether the cause which produced the illusion was beginningless or not. Some Vedantists however define ajnana as the substance constituting illusion, and say that though it is not a positive entity yet it may be regarded as forming the substance of the illusion; it is not necessary that only a positive entity should be the matter of any thing, for what is necessary for the notion of a material cause (_upadana_) is this, that it should continue or persist as the same in all changes of effects. It is not true that only what is positive can persist in and through
the effects which are produced in the time process. Illusion is unreal and it is not unnatural that the ajnana which also is unreal should be the cause of it.

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Ajnana established by Perception and Inference.

Ajnana defined as the indefinite which is neither positive nor negative is also directly experienced by us in such perceptions as "I do not know, or I do not know myself or anybody else," or "I do not know what you say," or more particularly "I had been sleeping so long happily and did not know anything." Such perceptions point to an object which has no definite characteristics, and which cannot properly be said to be either positive or negative. It may be objected that the perception "I do not know" is not the perception of the indefinite, the ajnana, but merely the negation of knowledge. To this Vedanta says that had it been the perception of a negation merely, then the negation must have been associated with the specific object to which it applied. A negation must imply the thing negatived; in fact negation generally appears as a substantive with the object of negation as a qualifying character specifying the nature of the negation. But the perception "I do not know or I had no knowledge" does not involve the negation of any particular knowledge of any specific object, but the knowledge of an indefinite objectless ignorance. Such an indefinite ajnana is positive in the sense that it is certainly not negative, but this positive indefinite is not positive in the same sense in which other definite entities are called positive, for it is merely the characterless, passive indefinite showing itself in our experience. If negation meant only a general negation, and if the perception of negation meant in each case the perception of a general negation, then even where there is a jug on the ground, one should perceive the negation of the jug on the ground, for the general negation in relation to other things is there. Thus negation of a thing cannot mean the general notion of the negation of all specific things; similarly a general negation without any specific object to which it might apply cannot manifest itself to consciousness; the notion of a general negation of knowledge is thus opposed to any and every knowledge, so that if the latter is present the former cannot be, but the perception "I do not know" can persist, even though many individual objects be known to us. Thus instead of saying that the perception of "I do not know" is the perception of a special kind of negation, it is rather better to say that it is the perception of a different category namely the indefinite, the ajnana. It is our common experience


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