Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Richard King on Asparsa Yoga in Gaudapada's Karikas (Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism)

Writing on Asparsa Yoga: the Gaudapadian Phenomenology of Perception:
Perception is base upon the possibility of contact (sparsa) between a perceiver and a perceived object. An attack upon this notion then is fundamental to an attack upon all “realist” theories of perception. The Nyaya Sutra, for instance, defines perception (pratyaksa) as “the determinate, unnamed, and unerring knowledge which arises from the contact of a sense organ with its object.” This is an inherently dualistic understanding of experience and as such is clearly unacceptable to the non-dualistic authors of the Gaudapadiya Karikas. An attack upon the notion of “contact” is fundamental to a thorough-going non-dual theory of perception. In fact, it is the GK’s position that:

“Consciousness does not make contact with an object, not even with the appearance of an object. In fact, the object is unreal, and the appearance of the object is non different. (GK IV.26)
(pg.154 Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism by Richard King)

There is a dense tangle of non-dual epistemology here. What we are immediately aware of is the mental modification (vritti) ‘caused’ by the object. In that sense we are not in contact with the object. But we are also aware of the object as it is because the same reality is fundamental to the vritti and the object. The object is a form of limitation of Consciousness (an upadhi) and it is this which allows it to be superimposed on the consciousness of the perceiver. The ‘unreality’ of the object, for Gaudapada, is due to the fact that it can be sublated. It is not changeless. Objects in the dream world on waking and illusory objects in the waking state are sublated because they are ultimately only true or real as consciousness. In fact the fundamental reality is Pure Consciousness, a boundless (anantam) unity of being in which there is no separation and therefore no contact (sparsha).

It is non-duality which makes perception possible, what Vedanta Paribhasa calls perceptuality. Non-duality makes duality and veridical perception possible to put it aporetically. In disagreeing with King on this point I believe that I am tracing Gaudapada’s core insight which was explicated by Sankara particularly in the preamble to his commentary on the Brahma Sutras.

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