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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

That both are modifications of ajnana


The

opposite of this doctrine is the theory held by some Vedantists that there are many individuals and the world-appearance has no permanent illusion for all people, but each person creates for himself his own illusion, and there is no objective datum which forms the common ground for the illusory perception of all people; just as when ten persons see in the darkness a rope and having the illusion of a snake there, run away, and agree in their individual perceptions that they have all seen the same snake, though each really had his own illusion and there was no snake at all. According to this view the illusory perception of each happens for him subjectively and has no corresponding objective phenomena as its ground. This must be distinguished from the normal Vedanta view which holds that objectively phenomena are also happening, but that these

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are illusory only in the sense that they will not last permanently and have thus only a temporary and relative existence in comparison with the truth or reality which is ever the same constant and unchangeable entity in all our perceptions and in all world-appearance. According to the other view phenomena are not objectively existent but are only subjectively imagined; so that the jug I see had no existence before I happened to have the perception that there was the jug; as soon as the jug illusion occurred to me I said that there was the jug, but it did not exist before.

As soon as I had the perception there was the illusion, and there was no other reality apart from the illusion. It is therefore called the theory of d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada, i.e. the theory that the subjective perception is the creating of the objects and that there are no other objective phenomena apart from subjective perceptions. In the normal Vedanta view however the objects of the world are existent as phenomena by the sense-contact with which the subjective perceptions are created. The objective phenomena in themselves are of course but modifications of ajnana, but still these phenomena of the ajnana are there as the common ground for the experience of all. This therefore has an objective epistemology whereas the d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada has no proper epistemology, for the experiences of each person are determined by his own subjective avidya and previous impressions as modifications of the avidya. The d@r@s@tis@r@s@tivada theory approaches nearest to the Vijnanavada Buddhism, only with this difference that while Buddhism does not admit of any permanent being Vedanta admits the Brahman, the permanent unchangeable reality as the only truth, whereas the illusory and momentary perceptions are but impositions on it.

The mental and physical phenomena are alike in this, that both are modifications of ajnana. It is indeed difficult to comprehend the nature of ajnana, though its presence in consciousness can be perceived, and though by dialectic criticism all our most well-founded notions seem to vanish away and become self-contradictory and indefinable. Vedanta explains the reason of this difficulty as due to the fact that all these indefinable forms and names can only be experienced as modes of the real, the self-luminous. Our innate error which we continue from beginningless time consists in this, that the real in its full complete light is ever hidden from us, and the glimpse


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