“One has to read the Kenopanisad to grasp the vision of Vedanta to resolve all doubts. A total grasp of the remarkable dialogues presented in this Upanisad quenches the thirst of spiritual knowledge.”
I am very happy that the ‘Kenopanisad’ is being brought out in a book-form. I did go through the edited transcript with a pen in hand and I did cross many a‘t’ and dot a few ‘i’s.
Though the transcripts were of my classroom lectures given quite a few years back, I was happy to see that I did not have to change anything much in content, much less in the method of teaching. I congratulate the publication team of Smt. Sheela Balaji, headed by Ms. K. Chandra, for their dedicated seva. I am very happy that we have the able services of Sri. Swami Sakshatkritananda and Dr. Martha Doherty. I look forward to many more books, even though they would keep me more busy.
The source book for self-knowledge is the Veda in general and Vedanta in particular. The whole Veda is looked upon as a means of knowledge. What is counted as a separate means of knowledge must have a subject matter of its own; it must not be available for any other means of knowledge. We count the sense organs backed by the mind as a separate means of knowledge because what is achieved by them cannot be achieved by any other means. If it can be achieved by some other means, then the senses are not a separate means of knowledge. So, perception, pratyaksa, which is five—fold is counted as one means of knowledge. This is five-fold because within perception itself we see each sense organ having its own sphere of operation. The eyes have access to colours and forms; ears have access to sound and so on. What is accomplished by a given sense organ is not accomplished by others, which is why we count each sense organ as a distinct pramana, means of knowledge.
This is so because it causes prama, knowledge. Ma means knowledge. Pra is an upasarga, a prefix to ma. Pramayah karana-bhutatvat, being in the form of karana, the means for prama, the sense organs are called pramanas. The five sense organs objectify the world directly, and therefore we call them, collectively, pratyaksa-pramana, direct means of knowledge.
This is also called mula-pramana, the source of all means of knowledge. For instance, the Veda is a means of knowledge that is outside this perception, but the words of the Veda have to be received by one’s ears or they have to be read by one’s eyes. Denied of visual and auditory perception, there is no way of knowing the Vedas. The pratyaksa-pramana is, therefore, a very important means in gaining any knowledge. In fact, the other means of knowledge depend upon pratyaksa pramana for their operation.
Some schools of thought accept only pratyaksa as a means of knowledge, which is why counting the number is important here. Any view held, based on the number of pramanas accepted, creates a philosophy. If you say pratyaksa alone is a means of knowledge, in the sense, anything sensorily perceived alone is true and everything else is untrue, you create a philosophy. In fact, it is the philosophy of a carvaka, a mechanical materialist. A person named Brhaspati was the expounder of this philosophy.
Perception is of two kinds. It can take place with or without the help of sense organs. Perception with the help of sense organs is qualified as indriya— pratyaksa, direct sensory perception. Perception that takes place without the help of sense organs is called s1iksi—pratyaksa, witness perception. In this perception, you—the witness, the knower—directly perceive. For instance, your hunger, your thirst, your emotions, the flow of time, the spatial situations—all these are known through witness perception. Here too, the result is direct knowledge. What is sensorily perceived needs sense organs; mere saksin cannot perceive, though saksin is very much there even in sensory perceptions. Saksin will always be present, but the sense organs are necessary additions in indriya pratyaksa. While sense organs negate each other, the saksin is always there in every perception. In the absence of all the sense organs also, the saksin continues to be there.
Our day—to—day life is conducted by a few more valid pramanas, and they are very important. The first among them is anumana, inference. It is a means of knowledge by which something is inferred through reasoning. In perception, reason is not employed. For instance, when you hear a dog barking, there is no reasoning employed in the perception of the particular sound. From the type of sound heard, one infers that there is a dog around even though it is not directly seen. The perception gives you certain datum or data, based upon which you use your reason and come to know something else.
You see dhuma, smoke, on the parvata, mountain. Both smoke and the mountain are directly seen to say parvatah dhumavan—the mountain has smoke. This is direct perception. But instead of saying the mountain has smoke, we conclude that the mountain has fire—parvatah vahniman. We do not see any fire at all; what we see is only a cloud of smoke, but our knowledge is paratah vahniman. There is certain reasoning, certain inner process of thinking involving certain steps between the perception that the mountain has smoke and the conclusion that the mountain has fire. This is anumana, inference.
In the stock example ‘the mountain has fire’ what is the step between the perception of smoke and the conclusion that there is fire? You do not conclude that the mountain has a lot of elephants because you see smoke there! It is illogical. Now you can understand what is logic. What is illogical is not outside logic; it is within logic. Only then can you say it is illogical. When you say that there must be fire because you see smoke, there must be a connection between the smoke and fire which reveals an invariable co—presence, an invariable concomitance. Suppose, there is smoke without fire, sometimes, you cannot then arrive at a definite conclusion on seeing smoke. You will merely be doing some guesswork.
The smoke cannot be there without fire. Whenever there is smoke there must be fire. This is called vyapti, invariable concomitance. You have to make sure whether the perception is of a cloud of smoke that keeps coming. If it is just a cloud of smoke, fire might have been there and gone, but the smoke is still there. If the smoke keeps coming, that means there must be fire. Fire can be present without producing smoke, but smoke cannot be present without the presence of fire. The invariable connection between smoke and fire is known from your daily perception in the kitchen and this is cited as example, drstanta. An example holds the vyapti. If you can show an instance where that invariable nature is contradicted, then your whole mnumana gets falsified. This is how reasoning is used in logic to gain ascertained knowledge, in our daily life as well as in scientific research. This way anumana is accepted as a valid means of knowledge. If this is not accepted, then you may walk into the burning forest because you do not see fire, but only smoke.
This anumana itself, when extended, is called arthapatti, presumption. In this inference there is more than one step involved. Taking the stock example, I observe that Devadatta does not eat during the day. I part with him in the night. Again, I do not see him eating the next day. However, he does not lose weight. There are two situations here. Devadatta is not eating during the day and at the same time he does not lose weight. We have clear knowledge that one will lose weight if one does not eat. But Devadatta does not eat during the day and at the same time he does not lose weight. Since it is not possible for the two conditions to coexist, anyatha anupapattau, we make a logical conclusion that Devadatta eats during the night. Otherwise, it is not possible to maintain the same weight. This arthapatti, presumption, is distinct from inference. What is arrived at by presumption cannot be arrived at by inference. Hence arthapatti has to be counted separately as a means of knowledge.
What is inferentially known, what is presumptuously known is indirect knowledge. Indirect knowledge is as important as direct knowledge. A plane takes off and lands only by indirect knowledge. In accomplishing anything desirable or avoiding and getting rid of something undesirable, we require indirect knowledge.
We get indirect knowledge by yet another means. I have been told bison is an animal that is like a water buffalo. This knowledge helps me identify a bison that is similar to a water buffalo. Thus the indirect knowledge of similarity called upamana leads me to direct knowledge of the bison.
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