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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

No separate negation can be accepted


style="text-align: justify;">that after experiencing the indefinite (_ajnana_) of a specific type we launch forth in our endeavours to remove it. So it has to be admitted that the perception of the indefinite is different from the perception of mere negation. The character of our perceiving consciousness (_sak@si_) is such that both the root ajnana as well as its diverse forms with reference to particular objects as represented in mental states (_v@rtti-jnana_), are comprehended by it. Of course when the v@rttijnana about a thing as in ordinary perceptions of objects comes in, the ajnana with regard to it is temporarily removed, for the v@rttijnana is opposed to the ajnana. But so far as our own perceiving consciousness (_sak@si-caitanya_) is conceived it can comprehend both the ajnana and the jnana (knowledge) of things. It is thus often said that all things show themselves to the perceiving consciousness either as known or as unknown. Thus the perceiving consciousness comprehends all positives either as indefinite ajnana or as states of knowledge or as specific kinds of ajnana or ignorance, but it is unable to comprehend a negation, for negation (_abhava_) is not a perception, but merely the absence of perception (_anupalabdhi_). Thus when I say I do not know this, I perceive the indefinite in consciousness with reference to that thing, and this is not the perception of a negation of the thing. An objection is sometimes raised from the Nyaya point of view that since without
the knowledge of a qualification (_vis'e@sana_) the qualified thing (_vis'i@s@ta_) cannot be known, the indefinite about an object cannot be present in consciousness without the object being known first. To this Vedanta replies that the maxim that the qualification must be known before the qualified thing is known is groundless, for we can as well perceive the thing first and then its qualification. It is not out of place here to say that negation is not a separate entity, but is only a peculiar mode of the manifestation of the positive. Even the naiyayikas would agree that in the expression "there is no negation of a jug here," no separate negation can be accepted, for the jug is already present before us. As there are distinctions and differences in positive entities by illusory impositions, so negations are also distinguished by similar illusory impositions and appear as the negation of jug, negation of cloth, etc.; so all distinctions between negations are unnecessary, and it may be accepted that negation like position is one which appears as many on account of illusory distinctions and impositions. Thus the


content of negation being itself positive, there is no reason to object that such perceptions as "I do not know" refer to the perception of an indefinite ajnana in consciousness. So also the perception "I do not know what you say" is not the perception of negation, for this would require that the hearer should know first what was said by the speaker, and if this is so then it is impossible to say "I do not know what you say."

So also the cognition "I was sleeping long and did not know anything" has to be admitted as referring to the perception of the indefinite during sleep. It is not true as some say that during sleep there is no perception, but what appears to the awakened man as "I did not know anything so long" is only an inference; for, it is not possible to infer from the pleasant and active state of the senses in the awakened state that the activity had ceased in the sleep state and that since he had no object of knowledge then, he could not know anything; for there is no invariable concomitance between the pleasant and active state of the senses and the absence of objects of knowledge in the immediately preceding state. During sleep there is a mental state of the form of the indefinite, and during the awakened state it is by the impression (_sa@mskara_) of the aforesaid mental state of ajnana that one remembers that state and says that "I did not perceive anything so long." The indefinite (_ajnana_) perceived in consciousness is more fundamental and general than the mere negation of knowledge (_jnanabhava_) and the two are so connected that though the latter may not be felt, yet it can be inferred from the perception of the indefinite. The indefinite though not definite is thus a positive content different from negation and is perceived as such in direct and immediate consciousness both in the awakened state as well as in the sleeping state.

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